What is Biofeedback Therapy

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

People use biofeedback therapy for dozens of different reasons, but before you go in for your first session, there are a number of things you should understand.

What is Biofeedback Therapy?

Biofeedback is a type of therapy that involves measuring your physiological responses in real time to help adjust your physical and psychological behaviors. In simple terms, this therapy gives you more control over your involuntary functions. By attaching sensors to different parts of the body, biofeedback specialists can monitor changes in your heart rate, skin temperature, muscle tension, breathing, and even brain activity. This therapy is a means of taking control of your health by understanding more tangibly how your thoughts and behaviors directly affect your health. The therapy sessions, which typically last for about 90 minutes, may include things like guided visualization, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and deep breathing exercises. For long-term success with this therapy, 10-15 individual sessions may be required. [1]

A biofeedback machine

Biofeedback is a technique in which they connect electrical sensors to your body to the bodily processes better. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

There are various types of biofeedback that include:

  • Brainwave
  • Breathing
  • Heart rate
  • Muscle
  • Temperature
  • Sweat glands
  • Electromyography
  • Electroencephalography

Attaching sensors at key parts of the body can allow precise measurement of changes, depending on what health condition you are attempting to treat or mitigate. There are also biofeedback devices, such as small mobile devices sensors that can be attached to the fingertips for continuous tracking. Some people also use headbands that monitor brain activity while they meditate, teaching them how to clear their mind more effectively, and storing all of that physiological data for later perusal.

Biofeedback Therapy Benefits

The main biofeedback therapy benefits include reduced headaches, boosted heart health, lowered anxiety, reduced pain, and prevention of hyperactivity.


This is one of the most common reasons why people seek out biofeedback therapy; chronic headaches can be debilitating and are often a combination of unidentified muscle tension and elevated stress levels. This treatment method can reduce stress and tension, helping to eliminate or reduce the frequency of headaches. [2]


Changing the way you think is just as important as changing the way you act and move. Certain forms of this therapy, such as the electroencephalogram, can clearly show how your body changes based on your mental focus. By seeing the relationship so clearly, it is easier to control those thoughts and naturally reduce your symptoms of anxiety. [3]

Heart Health

There is some evidence that this therapy can help to lower blood pressure, which can, in turn, protect cardiovascular health, but this isn’t trusted as a replacement for normal hypertension medication. That being said, any reduction in stress can be generally good for your heart. [4]

Chronic Pain

Many people carry large amounts of tension in their muscles without ever knowing they’re doing it. Gradual muscle relaxation therapy can help you to identify where those areas of muscle tension are, and also show you the physiological improvements when those muscles are released. This allows you to be in better control of your muscles, and your pain levels on a daily basis. [5]

Constipation & Incontinence

Whether you are struggling to have normal bowel movements or struggling to control your urinary tract, this therapy can help. For women struggling with incontinence, common treatments include exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. For constipation, relaxation techniques can unravel the knots in your stomach and promote normal bowel movements. [6]


For young children and adults who suffer from attention deficit disorder or other forms of hyperactivity, this alternative therapy has been known to help people focus their thoughts and improve their concentration skills, without the need for powerful prescription medications. [7]

Side Effects

There are no reported side effects to using biofeedback therapy, although it may not be an ideal fit for some patients, particularly if they are dealing with intensely personal health conditions, such as those affecting the mental health or the nervous system. Before starting this type of specialized therapy, speak with your doctor about any risks for your specific case.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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