What is Biofeedback?
Biofeedback is a mind-body technique that teaches you how to self-regulate your physiological responses to gain a greater sense of well-being. Biofeedback is an active training process. This means that in a session, your doctor will guide you through different types of training designed to target and modify your physiological responses. To do this, special equipment made up of various body sensors are used to make your physiology “visible” so that you can see what is happening in your nervous system on a screen. All of the equipment is non-invasive and simply rests on the skin. The sensors can demonstrate information such as your heart rate, skin conductance, skin surface temperature, and muscle contraction. The software can also calculate information like heart rate variability.
Biofeedback is generally used to train the part of our nervous system (the autonomic nervous system) that is not under our conscious control. By providing data in real time, you are able to bring conscious control to these processes. This process increases your awareness of thoughts, feelings and behaviors that come with the physiological responses your body experiences. Initially, your doctor will help you understand this process and how to regulate with the screens. Over time, you will learn how to do this without the help of the screens.
What conditions does Biofeedback treat?
Biofeedback has good evidence for treating anxiety, hypertension, and temporomandibular disorders.
In addition, it is most likely an effective treatment for alcoholism/substance abuse, arthritis, chronic pain, insomnia, and traumatic brain injury.
It may be effective for depressive disorders, fibromyalgia, eating disorders, IBS, PTSD, Reynaud’s disease, asthma, COPD, diabetes, tinnitus, increasing immune function, stroke rehabilitation and cerebral palsy, but more studies need to be done to prove its effectiveness.
What should I expect during my first and subsequent visits?
Biofeedback sessions run for a minimum of 10 weekly visits. The reason for this is that biofeedback is much like learning how to play an instrument or do a task like a pull-up. It takes some time to get to learn how your physiology works and then subsequently, to train how to respond differently. For this reason, some people find that doing 30+ sessions are helpful, however, even just 10 sessions can provide the insight and training necessary to begin to create new patterns in your nervous system. Generally, the first visit will be spent doing a general intake to get an idea of your current stressors and how you normally respond. Your doctor will also ask about the feelings, thoughts, and behaviors that relate to your responses. The subsequent one or two visits are often spent skill building- this may look like diaphragmatic breath training or postural training that is specific to this process. Once some skill and awareness is built, future sessions are usually spent learning and training with the biofeedback software. We will use different screens and even some games to test and train your physiological responses.