People have several automatic physical processes such as: heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, temperature, and sweating. Biofeedback is a treatment method that uses devices to monitor these processes, in turn helping the patient to consciously control them. Biofeedback is noninvasive and requires very little effort on the part of the patient. It is generally considered to be a safe technique. Occasionally, there have been reports of side effects like disorientation, dizziness, a sensation of floating, and anxiety.

Benefits of Biofeedback

Biofeedback requires a trained professional to manage the equipment, monitor the patient and interpret changes. By regulating specific body functions, biofeedback can help reduce stress, promote relaxation, correct urinary incontinence, and treat headaches. It has also been known to help people suffering from Raynaud disease (a problem involving blood circulation that can lead to cold, numb, or even pain in the fingers and toes). Physical functions that were causing a patient discomfort can be regulated, as well as aiding in retraining muscles. Current research has found that biofeedback can be particularly helpful for patients in regaining urinary and bowel control after surgery.

The Procedure

Biofeedback requires the guidance of a biofeedback therapist along with specific monitoring devices. The devices are affixed to the patient via electrodes on the skin. A monitor attached to these electrodes produces varying tones and images. By connecting the tone or image to a specific function the patient is then able to concentrate on performing that physical function until desired results are achieved. This process is repeated until the patient can comfortably control these physical actions on their own. In this respect, biofeedback is associated with trial and error. As they relate to biofeedback, the American Cancer Society lists five different methods for measuring bodily functions:

  • Electromyogram (EMG) – This device measures the electrical activity of muscles. When used in biofeedback an EMG can help heal muscle injuries, as well as relieve chronic pain and certain types of incontinence.
  • Thermal biofeedback- Skin temperature is monitored in this process which helps to indicate blood flow. In relation to blood flow are several health issues such as: migraines, Raynaud disease, anxiety, and high blood pressure.
  • Electrodermal activity (EDA) – This measurement monitors changes in perspiration rate, which may indicate anxiety.
  • Finger pulse measurements can be used to reflect high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, and anxiety.
  • Breathing rate is a measurement used to treat asthma and hyperventilation, as well as promoting relaxation.

Biofeedback requires the presence of a trained and certified professional in order to properly manage the measuring devices, interpret any changes, and monitor the patient. A licensed physician or specialist is the only way to obtain a proper diagnosis of cancer or other illness. Patients who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or other cancers might consider an alternative therapy such as biofeedback in accordance with their other treatments.

American Cancer Society