Biofeedback Training Improves Health and Performance
What is biofeedback?
Biofeedback is a scientifically-researched therapy that displays your body’s activity back to you to help you gain greater awareness and control of your physiology.
Biofeedback can be found in everyday life as well as the biofeedback clinic. You use biofeedback whenever you:
- brush your hair using a mirror
- count carbohydrate grams
- record your blood pressure
- take your pulse after a run
Home test kits for cholesterol, colorectal cancer, and hepatitis C are additional examples of biofeedback used to assess and care for your personal health.
Which responses does biofeedback monitor?
Biofeedback devices detect brain electrical activity (EEG), breathing (RESP), heart rate (HR) and heart rate variability (HRV), skeletal muscle activity (EMG), skin electrical activity (EDA), and skin temperature (TEMP) using biofeedback electrodes. Clinicians also refer to EEG biofeedback as neurofeedback or neurotherapy.
What is biofeedback therapy like?
Biofeedback instructions resemble learning to swim. Patients learn at their own pace and use different strategies to control their physiology. Two analogies capture the essence of this learning process.
“Biofeedback is like coaching a runner using a stopwatch." A biofeedback professional uses information from biofeedback displays to educate and motivate you.
"Biofeedback is like teaching carpentry instead of teaching hammering." The aim of biofeedback training is teach you self-regulation, not a specific strategy.
How can biofeedback help you increase body awareness and control?
While you can easily perceive the forceful muscle contraction of a clenched fist, you may be unable to detect the more subtle cues that accompany changes in finger blood flow.
Biofeedback instruments amplify these faint signals and almost instantly show these changes to you using visual and auditory displays. Biofeedback training methods teach you to associate internal sensations with changes in the biofeedback display. Practice enables you to increase your awareness of your body so that you can tell when your hands are warming or cooling without checking a feedback thermometer. Your heightened awareness allows you to control hand temperature outside of the biofeedback clinic.
How can biofeedback teach you the connection between your mind and body?
Green, Green, and Walters proposed almost four decades ago that changes in your emotional state alter your physiology and that changes in your physiology alter your emotional state. Biofeedback provides powerful demonstrations of this psychophysiological principle.
For example, during biofeedback training for headache, a clinician may encourage you to describe a recent upsetting event while you are monitored by several biofeedback instruments. If neck and forehead muscle tension suddenly increase as you describe an argument with your boss, the clinician can freeze the display, ask what you were just feeling, and then help you connect the dots between the change in your emotions and muscle contraction.
Next, the clinician can invite you to relax the muscles you have just tensed, guided by the biofeedback display. When you have reduced muscle contraction below a target level, your clinician can again freeze the display, ask what you are now feeling, and then help you see that physiological change can affect your emotions.
By using biofeedback as a mirror, skilled biofeedback providers can help you to better recognize your emotional responses and teach you how negative emotions can endanger your health and how positive emotions can enhance it.
Where can you find biofeedback training?
Personal biofeedback is becoming increasingly mainstream. Consumers now wear inexpensive heart rate watches and learn mind-body control playing biofeedback games like Journey to the Wild Divine and using biofeedback devices like the Resperate™, StressEraser™, and emWave™. Software developers have announced plans to allow gamers to control popular videogames by controlling physiological signals like the EEG.
Clinical or performance training is provided by biofeedback practitioners, including counselors, nurses, occupational therapists, physical therapists, physicians, physicians’ assistants, and psychologists.
For which disorders is biofeedback effective?
Biofeedback clinical trials have shown that biofeedback techniques are effective for children and adults diagnosed with many medical and psychological disorders, including anxiety, asthma, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), headache, high blood pressure, and urinary incontinence.
Can biofeedback improve your performance?
Professionals use biofeedback equipment to help astronauts, athletes, executives, fighter pilots, musicians, and students improve their performance by teaching them to control arousal, focus attention, reduce misplaced muscular effort, and manage life stress.
Who should train you?
Biofeedback professionals who are experienced in your clinical or performance application and certified by the Biofeedback Certification Institute of America (BCIA) in General Biofeedback or EEG biofeedback are qualified to provide your training.
Which professional organizations promote biofeedback?
The Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB), the Biofeedback Foundation of Europe (BFE) , and the International Society for Neurofeedback and Research (ISNR) are the main membership organizations for biofeedback and neurofeedback. The Biofeedback Certification Institute of America (BCIA) certifies professionals in General biofeedback, EEG biofeedback, and Pelvic Muscle biofeedback.