Biofeedback and Neurofeedback

Biofeedback therapy and neurofeedback therapy are alternative therapies involving non-medical treatments for various medical conditions by presenting the details to patients on body functions in real time. Both therapies involve assessing the brain waves to determine where there are problem areas in the body enabling the patient to become more aware of these processes and to develop the ability to better control them. Biofeedback neurofeedback have been successful in treating disorders related to stress.

What is Biofeedback?

Biofeedback therapy utilizes equipment such as electromyographs, feedback thermometers, electrodermographs, EEG, photoplethysmographs, pneumographs, and hemoencepthalography. Learn how these instruments and techniques are used in biofeedback therapy for stress related symptoms:

Electromyographs make use of electrodes to monitor muscle tension. When one is stressed, the muscles are in a constant state of tension. By watching the readings of the EMG, the patient can easily learn to recognize the feelings associated with this tension. The biofeedback treatment teaches the patient how to relax the muscle tension that is most often associated with back pain, headaches, TMD and incontinence.

Feedback thermometers attached to the fingers or toes measure the patientís skin temperature, as opposed to normal thermometers that measure the internal temperature of the body. Research has shown that when a person is stress there is a corresponding drop in the skin temperature. A low reading is a sign that the patient needs to learn and practice relaxation techniques to help bring down the level of stress. Such instruments are also useful in diagnosing and treating medical conditions, such as migraine headaches and can help in reducing the incidences of attacks.

An electrodrmograph monitors the patientís sweat glands and is useful in treating panic disorders and extreme stress and anxiety. The polygraph machines measure the amount of stress the patient is feeling depending on the situations presented.

An EEG measures brain waves corresponding to different mental states, such as being awake or asleep, and the amount of relaxation the patient is experiencing.

Photoplethysmographs are used to measure the patientís heart rate and blood flow and are instrumental in the detection of variations in breathing patterns.

Pneumographs measure the movement of the chest cavity and abdomen during breathing under normal circumstances and in stressful events so that the patient can get a better idea of how stress affects this normal body function and can identify situations where relaxation techniques are needed.

Hemoencepthalography uses infrared imaging to detect different colors in the scalp related to the patientís level of stress. There are different color images for a relaxed state and ones in which the patient is starting to or does experience a heightened level of stress or anxiety.

What is Neurofeedback?

In neurofeedback treatment, sensors on the scalp help display the brain wave activity by means of a video display with sound and vibrations on the screen. In the training provided to the patient so that he/she can successfully control the feelings of stress and engage in relaxation techniques, when the patient reacts in a positive way to a stressful situation, there is a positive reward as reinforcement.

The technician involved in the neurofeedback therapy uses a computer to transmit electromagnetic fields to the patient providing immediate feedback. The core of this approach is to assess the level of treatment required, which in turn determines the number of neurofeedback therapy sessions the patient will require. This approach works best with problems in functioning, such as is evidenced in phobia disorders. The assessment also looks for other problems at the core of the stress, such as allergies or medical conditions that may be the cause or add to the existing problem.



Biofeedback neurofeedback sessions take about 90 minutes to complete. At the end of each session the technician will discuss the results with the patient and through the feedback from the various instruments and techniques a program for therapy is mapped out. It may take as little as 20 sessions to help a patient learn to control the feelings of stress and employ relaxation techniques when they recognize the symptoms of stress. In some cases as many as 40 sessions may be needed, but this depends on both the causes of stress and the symptoms.