Biofeedback is a method of treatment in which the patients are trained to control their own physiological variables in order to improve physical and psychological health. For example, a patient who is trained to control his/her temperature can help such diverse disorders as headaches, hypertension, anxiety, tinnitus, as well as enhance general relaxation.
Biofeedback is used for a wide span of medical disorders. The equipment and software are often complex, and there are several equipment systems, each one challenging to learn; a great deal of training is necessary to learn any given system, and the costs incurred for all of this is substantial.
Some commonly used methods of biofeedback include temperature training, skin conductance (aka galvanic skin response), respiration, heart rate variability, EMG and EEG biofeedback. If patients can learn to control their own physiology to the extent that their health improves, it is likely that the use of medical care will be less than for similar patients not employing these methods.
Several medical disorders can be successfully treated with biofeedback. Hypertension, migraine and tension headaches, chronic pain, attention deficit disorder, epilepsy, anxiety, children’s stomach pain and temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) are disorders where biofeedback has been rated “Efficacious”, supporting biofeedback's use in these areas. This rating follows the Chambless and Hollon (1998) recommendations, updated for biofeedback by the two professional organizations, AAPB and ISNR (Moss & Gunkelman, 2002). Biofeedback can literally save resources in health care, and is under-utilized, especially considering that an overall goal of biofeedback is giving patients control over their own physiology such that their health can be improved.
The implications of biofeedback with regard to the future of healthcare are substantial. Imagine training the next generation to control major aspects of their physiology! If people could relax at will, control their heart rate, calm themselves by lowering their skin conductance, abort their headaches by controlling their body temperature — there would be fewer visits to doctors and more people would be happier because of their ability to manage their conditions. With biofeedback, along with behavioral management, more control over one’s health is quite possible.
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