Biofeedback Guide

Learn more about how biofeedback therapy works, different types of biofeedback, and what to expect from treatment.

Table of Contents

What Is Biofeedback?

In a biofeedback guide, individuals learn a technique that helps to control their heart rate and other body functions. Biofeedback helps individuals to improve their mental performance, reduce stress, and relieve chronic pain. A significant goal of biofeedback is to enable individuals to make some changes to their bodies for the desired effect.

Individuals use biofeedback to learn how to control and cope with some psychological effects of stress. In a four-week period, biofeedback intervention proved effective in reducing stress and anxiety in a group of sixty participants (97 percent female and 3 percent male). Biofeedback involves using sensors attached to the body to help detect muscle tone and physiological function. It also involves using auditory or visual feedback to enable individuals to recognize the physical symptoms of stress. 1

biofeedback therapy

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Why is Biofeedback Therapy Beneficial in Treatment?

Biofeedback helps individuals gain desired results by enabling them to make subtle changes to their bodies. It is a mind-body therapy that helps individuals to improve their mental and physical health.

What Is Biofeedback Therapy?

Biofeedback therapy involves the placement of sensors on the head in specific spots to measure involuntary bodily processes. These specific spots are often responsible for common unwanted symptoms in the body. During the therapy session, there are monitors which receive the signals from the sensors by displaying a sound or light.

The biofeedback therapists will describe the situation and guide the individual through the relaxation technique. It is a therapy that leans towards enabling individuals to control their bodily processes without using medication. These bodily processes, such as heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension, are often involuntary.

Types of Biofeedback

There are various types of biofeedback available to monitor various bodily functions. These biofeedback categories are detailed below.
biofeedback therapy

Respiratory Biofeedback

Respiratory biofeedback involves using sensor bands placed around the chest and abdomen. These sensor bands help to monitor the individual’s respiration rate and breathing patterns. These individuals learn to control their breathing rates which can help individuals experiencing anxiety.

Heart Rate Variability Biofeedback

This involves the use of earlobe sensors with a photoplethysmograph to detect changes in blood volume. The heart rate variability biofeedback also involves the placement of an electrocardiograph (ECG) on the wrists, chest, and lower torso. Studies have shown that heart rate variability is a safe and effective method to improve performance in sports. Approximately 86 percent of studies showed athletes experienced an improvement in sports performance due to heart rate variability biofeedback. 2

The electrocardiograph helps to measure the heart rate and its variability. It is a form of therapy that involves feedback on the heart rate data beat by beat. The feedback ensures the breathing matches the patterns of the heart rate on the breathing feedback equipment. It is useful for treating several disorders such as depression and asthma.

Galvanic Skin Response

Galvanic skin response biofeedback involves reducing tension while improving self-regulation and concentration. It is also known as skin conductance and involves changes in sweat gland activity. These sweat gland activities often reflect the individual’s emotional intensity or emotional arousal.
The galvanic skin feedback response also involves the use of an instrument to measure the skin conductivity from the palms and fingers. This biofeedback therapy training helps treat dermatological-related conditions.

Blood Pressure Biofeedback

Blood pressure biofeedback involves the use of a wearable device to provide certain information about the individual’s blood pressure. Blood pressure biofeedback helps increase the individual’s control of their physiology. It guides the individual through biofeedback and relaxation techniques which may involve breathing exercises and visual cues.

Thermal Biofeedback (Temperature Feedback)

Thermal biofeedback involves the measurement of the skin’s temperature by attaching a sensor to the feet or fingers. The sensors help to detect the individual’s blood flow to the skin. The sensors read low on the monitor and indicate a sign of stress and a need to employ a stress management technique. In times of stress, most individuals experience a drop in their body temperature.

Neurofeedback (EEG Biofeedback)

Neurofeedback assists individuals in consciously controlling their brain waves. This biofeedback helps present real-time information from the individual’s brain activity. It also helps to reinforce the healthy functioning of the brain by operant conditioning. Neurofeedback also involves the utilization of electroencephalography to measure the ability of the brain wave.3
Neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback that is often used as a non-invasive treatment. It can help with the treatment of depression, attention-deficit disorder, fatigue, and pain. In a review of twenty-seven studies, seventeen of them reported that EEG biofeedback is helpful in alleviating fatigue.


Electromyography biofeedback involves the placement of electrodes on the individual’s muscles to create a feedback signal via an EMG device. The generated feedback signal is often in response to muscle activation. It enables a more effective way for individuals to use their disabled limbs.
The EMG device helps to detect various changes in muscle tension. It is a device that monitors electrical activity, which may result in various muscle contractions.

What Can Biofeedback Treat?

Biofeedback treatment helps in managing a wide variety of conditions, including:
  • Anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Attention-deficit disorders
  • Breathing problems, such as asthma
  • Digestive issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome and constipation
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches, fibromyalgia, and joint and muscle pain
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • Seizures
  • High blood pressure
  • Substance use disorders, such as alcoholism and drug addiction

Biofeedback for Anxiety

Benefits of Biofeedback

Biofeedback provides individuals with several benefits, some of which are detailed below.

It’s Non-Invasive

In situations where some other treatments have proven ineffective, applying biofeedback may be appealing. Biofeedback is also very effective for individuals unable to take particular medications.4
Generally, it involves the use of non-invasive instruments or biofeedback machines to determine the results of a parameter.

It Can Complement Other Treatments

Another significant benefit of biofeedback is that it complements other treatments well. Individuals can use biofeedback as a part of a well-rounded treatment approach. Most individuals often use biofeedback to enhance relaxation strategies, medications, and other treatments. This non-invasive treatment enables individuals to maintain their well-being and self-awareness.

It Can Help Put You in Control of Your Emotions

Biofeedback gives individuals more control and helps them better manage any stress they may be feeling due to their health conditions. Biofeedback also teaches individuals how to regulate their emotions and responses in stressful situations.
It also enables individuals to learn new skills and techniques, which helps them to cope with anxiety. Biofeedback also helps the patients to manage their emotional responses, which makes them feel empowered health-wise.

Biofeedback Techniques

There are various techniques of collecting biofeedback available that help individuals achieve their desired results. Individuals can make use of these techniques on their own, while others may require professional help. However, it is vital to check in with a healthcare provider before engaging in biofeedback training in order to do it properly. The following are some of the biofeedback techniques available.
biofeedback therapy

Deep Breathing

Deep breathing techniques can help individuals with a wide range of conditions, including anxiety, elevated heart rate, stress, and high blood pressure. Deep breathing often helps to calm the body and mind by slowing the individual’s respiration rate. It also helps to balance hormones and increase the endorphin rush in the body.
When performing deep breathing, it is best to lie on your back with one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. Take a deep breath and allow your belly to rise; hold a deep breath for three seconds, and slowly breathe out. Make sure you fully exhale, pause, and repeat the process. This is known as diaphragmatic breathing.

Benefits of Deep Breathing

Aside from bodily regulation, deep breathing can also help patients sleep better because it slows down the heart rate. Deep breathing also helps to improve blood flow and immunity because it enables a smoother functioning of vital organs.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique that involves the repeated tightening and relaxation of the muscles while attached to an electric biographical device.
During progressive muscle relaxation, it is best to lie down on your back. Make sure to hold the tight contraction of the specific muscle or muscle group for a count of three before relaxing. Progressively work your way up your body while contracting and relaxing various muscle groups. Progressive muscle relaxation helps to reduce stress while also improving insomnia symptoms. It also helps to reduce tension and anxiety while in a stressful situation.

Benefits of Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Individuals with tension in the neck or their shoulders due to emotional or mental stress can make use of progressive muscle relaxation. It can ease neck pain, reduce low back pain, and decrease the rate of migraine attacks.

Guided Imagery

Guided imagery is commonly used to relieve stress and anxiety by creating a bridge between the body and mind. This technique involves the use of another individual who acts as the guide while patients are in an enhanced state. These individuals are often in a deep state of imagining a scenario or situation set up by the guide.5
Individuals can also perform these guided images while using a recording as a guide. During the biofeedback program, the individual will lie on their back in a relaxed position. The guide will describe a pleasant or peaceful situation, and the individual will imagine the situation as described by the guide. During the session, the individual will imagine their feelings related to the imagery and how their body feels during the imagery.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation helps individuals to slow down their thoughts and be in their present mind in order to relax and relieve anxiety and stress. Mindfulness meditation also helps to improve sleep and decrease heart rate.
Mindfulness meditation may lower blood pressure and alleviate gastrointestinal difficulties. During meditation, the individual gets in a relaxed and comfortable position. One of the goals of mindfulness meditation is not to stop the thoughts, but to allow them to be and encounter them.

How Biofeedback Works: an Overview

Things to Consider Before Starting Biofeedback

There are numerous factors to consider before participating in a biofeedback test. It is vital to always communicate with your healthcare provider about your options before you start. It is important to check the credentials of the physician or professional treating you before you begin. Key factors to consider before beginning biofeedback are detailed below.


The cost of a biofeedback test may vary considerably per session. Most times, the biofeedback therapy cost depends on the level of training, experience, and qualification of the biofeedback therapists. There are also various wearables and in-home biofeedback devices available. These devices are available in various price ranges, which may cost as low as $20 and as high as thousands of dollars.

Biofeedback Devices

Biofeedback devices are available for use by both mental health and medical professionals. Some of these devices are also available for personal use, and individuals can purchase them in the consumer market. However, it is important to reach out to your therapist about the devices they recommend.

Categories of Biofeedback Devices

Studies have shown that the current generations are more aware of biofeedback devices and their usefulness. The following two categories of biofeedback devices are available:
  • Clinical Biofeedback Devices: It is an FDA-regulated biofeedback diagnostic machine often available at the biofeedback therapist’s office and is often utilized for medical purposes
  • Personal Use Biofeedback Devices: These devices often require the individual to wear sensors that record their information. Individuals can also plug the device into a computer. These devices also include some wearable instruments, like brainwave monitors. 

What to Expect During a Biofeedback Therapy Session

A biofeedback therapy session often lasts between thirty and sixty minutes. The therapists will apply sensors to measure your brain activity, heart rate, and breathing. Afterward, the therapist will guide the individual in a mental activity involving imagery and meditation. The therapist can then make changes to the chosen therapy technique according to the device during the session.
biofeedback therapy

An Overview of Biofeedback

How Many Sessions Will I Need?

Biofeedback requires constant practice, and it is best not to expect a major change in one session. When starting biofeedback treatment, it is advisable to attend at least three to five sessions to monitor your growth. You may require ten to twenty sessions to get control of your body and improve the connection between your mind and body.
It is important to keep in mind that everyone has different reactions to some therapies, and the experience may vary significantly by individual.

How Often Should I Get Treatments?

Biofeedback works best when attending multiple sessions, so it is important to actively practice and participate between appointments. The number of treatments an individual will go need is dependent on the following:
  • Condition you are trying to manage 
  • The severity of your symptoms 
  • Response of your body 
  • The amount you practice between sessions 

Does Insurance Cover Biofeedback?

biofeedback therapy
Although there are insurance companies that cover biofeedback for some conditions, other insurance companies do not. The plan you make also has an influence on the number of treatments it can cover.
It is advisable to check with your insurance company to see if they will cover treatment for your condition and the number of sessions they will cover. Your insurance may require you to provide a referral from a healthcare provider or a doctor.

Can You Do Biofeedback at Home?

You can complete self-biofeedback therapy at home independently. However, you have to purchase the necessary professional biofeedback equipment. Ensure you have the app on your smartphone to provide you with guidance during the therapy session. You can also collect respiration biofeedback at home without equipment while making use of biofeedback breathing techniques.