Biofeedback is a way
to become aware of our body sensations so as to learn to
regulate them. "Bio" refers to basic body functions and
"feedback" refers to making us aware of them.
50 years ago, it was unimaginable that we could influence basic body functions, such as temperature, blood
pressure, and heart rate through our thoughts (although some meditative monks
could). Now, instruments providing feedback make
such self-regulation possible for the
For example, a simple instrument, a thermometer, can increase awareness of
sensations so a patient with Raynaud's Disease (cold hands)
can use thoughts to increase hand temperature and get
confirming feedback when temperature reaches its desired
instruments are more complicated than a thermometer.
However, what they have in common is providing feedback for
learning, displayed on a screen, with a sound, or by other
indicators. The results include relief of migraine
headaches, high blood pressure, chronic pain, and other
uses biofeedback equipment to provide patients with
information about their own bodies (such as temperature,
muscle tension, heart rate, blood pressure, and brain waves) and teaches them
to use this information to control their bodies and
symptoms. Biofeedback equipment, as in the following
photo, is akin to taking measurements with a scale,
thermometer, or electrocardiogram that picks up electrical
signals from the heart. It only measures what is
happening in the body and displays the data on a screen.
Nothing is sent into the body so there is no discomfort or
pain. In fact, being
so relaxed, in touch with your own body, and in control over
your own body are enjoyable and fascinating.
(Note this photo taken in Dr. McSweeney's office is not of an actual patient.
She keeps patient's identity and information