Biofeedback therapy trains the patient to control normally involuntary body functions, such as heart rate and blood pressure, to treat medical conditions. The therapy uses electrodes attached to the skin to track heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, sweating, skin temperature and muscle activity.
Biofeedback therapy usually takes place in a therapist's office or medical facility, but some units are available for home use. Body functions tracked by the electrodes are displayed on a monitor as an image, light or sound. When the patient becomes stressed, the monitor shows the changes in the body functions. The therapist helps the patient use relaxation techniques to control those functions. The monitor shows the patient if the techniques are working.
Each biofeedback therapy session lasts about 30 to 60 minutes. Over time, the patient learns to control the body functions without using the monitor for feedback. The number of sessions required depends on how quickly the patient responds to the therapy. Some patients may need up to 50 sessions.
Learning to relax muscles and use relaxation techniques can work in place of medication for certain medical conditions, particularly pain. Biofeedback therapy can work for migraines, chronic pain, anxiety, constipation, high blood pressure, asthma, irritable bowel syndrome and Raynaud's disease.