Biofeedback’s origins go back to ancient Hindus and Buddhists, but it wasn’t until after World War II that biofeedback — as it’s used today — came into existence.
Biofeedback works by attaching instruments to your body to measure physiological activity like brain waves, heart rate, body temperature, respiratory rate, and muscle tension. You (and often a trained doctor) can see these measurements in real-time on a computer screen. Because you are able to get immediate feedback on your typically hidden mental and physical responses, you can experiment with modifying your thinking and breathing to facilitate desired physiological changes.
Here’s a simple example of biofeedback. Let’s say you’re chronically frazzled. You hook yourself up to a heart rate monitor, which reveals a resting heart rate that indicates that you are indeed stressed out. So you try different breathing and muscle relaxation exercises to bring your heart rate down. The monitor gives you real-time feedback as to whether these exercises are working.
A typical biofeedback session will measure one or more of the following physiological activities:
- Electromyogram (EMG). This measures muscle activity and tension. This measurement is often used for patients wanting to get a better handle on back pain, headaches, and incontinence.
- Heart rate variability (HRV). This measures heart rate. As we discussed in our post about stress arousal, as stress increases, our heart rate increases. According to biofeedback, knowing your heart rate is increasing should allow you to perform exercises to lower it. Heart rate monitoring is typically used to help patients gain control of their stress and anxiety.
- Neurofeedback or electroencephalography (EEG). This measures brain waves. This biofeedback measurement has been used for treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, stress, and PTSD.
- Thermal feedback. This measures skin temperature. Because our body temperature decreases when facing extreme psychological stress, being aware of your body temperature allows you to take steps to manage that stress.
- Electrodermal activity (EDA). This measures sweat. When we’re nervous and anxious, we perspire more.
Independent randomized controlled studies have shown biofeedback is an effective way to reduce high blood pressure, eliminate migraines, reduce anxiety, and even treat constipation. Some studies dispute biofeedback’s effectiveness to treat ADHD and PTSD, but the military feels it has gotten good results on this front.
To see if I could achieve the same positive results found in these studies, I decided to conduct my own personal experiment with biofeedback.
Clinical psychoneurophysiology is a biological approach to healing and wellness. Our clinic treats a multitude of common disorders such as ADHD, Depression, anxiety, and insomnia as well as less common ailments such as PTSD, epilepsy, stroke, brain injury and fibromyalgia. We also work with brain optimization for individuals who just want to be the best they can be! Neurophysiological treatment does not involve pharmaceuticals or other potentially dangerous or ineffective drugs. To gain an understanding of what is ailing a person and why, we go directly to the source, the brain.