Clinical Reference Guide:
What We Diagnose, How We Diagnose and Treatment Options
Disorder (ADHD) in Adults
Disorder (ADHD) in Children
Autism and Pervasive Developmental
EEG and Evoked Potentials Assessment (DEEP)
Cognitive Guidance for High Achievers
and Language Disorders
What is biofeedback?
Biofeedback is a therapy in which you are trained to improve your health
by using information from your own body. You can learn to control many
body activities that most people usually don't think of as within their
control. Among these are:
- Blood pressure
- Heart rate
- Muscle tension
- Many brain wave patterns
Learning to control these body functions can be very helpful in treating
or preventing many mental health and medical problems. Your biofeedback
therapist will probably be a psychologist, doctor, physical therapist,
When is it used?
Biofeedback is often used to help treat:
- Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), especially for
adults and older children
- Tension headaches
- Chronic back or neck pain
- High blood pressure
- Anxiety disorders
- Grinding of the teeth
Along with standard treatments, biofeedback can be helpful for:
- Migraine headaches
- Chronic depression
- Chronic pain
- Jaw joint (TMJ) problems
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
How do I prepare for training?
You need only to adopt the mind-set that you will be learning
to control your own body to improve your health. You should expect it
to take a number of therapy sessions (usually between 6 and 30) to teach
you the needed skills.
What happens during training?
Your therapist connects you to some electronic equipment that provides
you with information about the performance of the body functions you
need to learn to control. The equipment gives feedback through information
you can see (usually on a computer or TV screen) or hear (with beeps
or tones) on the status of those body functions. During the treatment
sessions you will be asked to simply relax, often in a recliner chair,
and pay attention to how you feel and how that changes the information
provided by the screen or sounds.
The first one or two sessions are usually spent just getting readings
of your usual functioning. This is called your baseline and is used
later to measure your progress.
There are three common types of biofeedback:
Thermal biofeedback: In this procedure
the equipment, usually attached to the hand or foot, measures skin temperature.
Skin temperature is a good gauge of how tense or relaxed you are. When
you are relaxed, the skin temperature of your hands and feet rises.
Problems related to tension such as headaches and pain are often treated
well with this form of biofeedback.
Electromyogram (EMG) biofeedback :
Small sensors that measure muscle activity are put on your skin at areas
important to the problem being treated. Common sites are the neck, back,
or forehead. This kind of biofeedback may be used to treat problems
such as migraine headaches, chronic pain, and anxiety disorders.
Electroencephalogram (EEG) biofeedback:
One or more small sensors are placed on your scalp. They measure electrical
activity in the brain (called brain waves). Learning to increase or
decrease certain brain wave patterns can be very useful in treating
ADHD and epilepsy.
What happens after training?
Between biofeedback sessions you may be asked to practice exercises
in relaxation or muscle control to strengthen the learning from treatment
sessions. Once you have completed a full course of treatment you may
need occasional "booster" sessions to help maintain the control
you have learned.
What are the benefits?
Biofeedback is a natural treatment in which you learn to help yourself.
It can be learning that helps you for the rest of your life. It involves
no medicines or medical procedures.
What are the risks?
There are almost no risks. The biggest risk is trying to use biofeedback
for a problem so serious that medical care should be given first. It
is very important to talk to our medical professionals before stopping
other treatment and using only biofeedback.