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How To Start Using Biofeedback in Your Wellness Clinic

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How To Start Using Biofeedback in Your Wellness Clinic

Biofeedback is increasingly gaining popularity as an integrative approach in healthcare. Recognized as a mind-body therapy by the National Institute of Complementary and Integrative Health, biofeedback is considered a complementary and integrative medicine (CIM) practice. It is estimated that 38% of adults and 12% of children in the U.S. are incorporating some sort of CIM therapy to treat various diseases. Research shows that biofeedback is effective for various medical conditions and may become a widely accepted therapy for a broader range of diseases.

Ongoing studies, such as the upcoming research at the Cleveland Clinic investigating the efficacy of biofeedback in conditions like coronary artery disease, diabetes, and multiple sclerosis, aim to establish its positive impact on quality of life, clinical outcomes, and even potentially reversing disease-related biological aspects. This article will discuss what biofeedback is, the different variations of biofeedback, how it works, what it is commonly used for, and how biofeedback is used in integrative medicine.


What is Biofeedback?

Biofeedback is a remarkable technique that empowers individuals to enhance their well-being by gaining control over involuntary bodily functions, such as blood pressure, muscle tension, heart rate, and skin temperature. These physiological processes are measured and visually presented on a monitor using electrodes affixed to the skin or sensors held in the hands. Under the guidance of a biofeedback therapist, individuals can acquire the ability to modify their heart rate or blood pressure, among other functions. Initially, the monitor serves as a means to observe progress, but with time, one can achieve success without needing monitoring equipment or electrodes. While biofeedback is widely recognized as an effective therapy for various conditions, its primary applications encompass the treatment of high blood pressure, tension headaches, migraine headaches, chronic pain, and urinary incontinence. By harnessing the power of biofeedback, individuals can actively participate in managing and improving their health.

Types of Biofeedback

There are three most commonly used forms of biofeedback therapy. They are Electroencephalography (EEG) or Neurofeedback, which measures brain wave activity.

Electromyography (EMG), which measures muscle tension; and thermal biofeedback, which measures skin temperature.

Neurofeedback, also known as EEG-NFB, is a widely used technique that measures brain activity in real time. It involves processing the data to extract specific parameters of interest and providing immediate feedback to the individual. Through this feedback loop, people can gain better control over their brain function and behavior. Neurofeedback is often used as a complementary treatment for various neurological disorders and to enhance healthy individuals' cognitive abilities, creativity, and relaxation. Different types of neurofeedback training, such as slow cortical potentials and frequency and coherence training, are described, along with their results and limitations. While there are still concerns and variations in research designs, the future of neurofeedback shows promises for further improvement and advancements in the field.

EMG is a diagnostic test that measures muscle response and electrical activity in response to nerve stimulation. Tiny needles that are called electrodes are inserted into the muscle, and the electrical signals are displayed on an oscilloscope. EMG helps detect neuromuscular abnormalities by assessing muscle activity during rest, slight contraction, and forceful contraction. Valuable information about the muscle's responsiveness is obtained by measuring the shape and size of the waves on the oscilloscope. EMG is a valuable tool for identifying muscle and nerve dysfunctions.

Thermal biofeedback training typically entails attaching a thermistor to the dominant hand's third finger. The objective is for patients to acquire the skill of warming their hands by enhancing blood flow to the area. Through guided imagery and relaxation techniques, patients engage in thermal biofeedback to raise the temperature of their hands.

How Does Biofeedback Work?

The precise mechanisms behind the effectiveness of biofeedback remain uncertain to researchers. However, a common observation is that individuals who benefit from biofeedback often experience conditions triggered or exacerbated by stress. Consequently, many scientists believe that relaxation plays a pivotal role in successful biofeedback therapy.

Biofeedback sessions involve the placement of non-invasive sensors on your skin to measure various physiological signals from your body, including breathing, heart rate, muscle activity, sweat, muscle movement and tension (using surface electromyography or sEMG), electrical brain activity (using neurofeedback or EEG biofeedback), and skin temperature. The results are displayed on a nearby screen, which your practitioner explains. Based on the feedback, your practitioner will suggest strategies to modify how your body functions. These may include changing your posture or movement to alleviate muscle tension, adjusting your breathing patterns to reduce anxiety, consciously relaxing your muscles to relieve pain, employing mindfulness and focus techniques to control breathing or lower heart rate, or taking a test to observe how stress impacts your body's response. You can monitor real-time changes in the displayed results as you try each suggestion. Through practice, you can learn to replicate these changes without relying on the feedback screen or prompts from the practitioner.

How is Biofeedback Used in Integrative Medicine?

Biofeedback is integral to integrative medicine, offering a non-invasive approach to treating various conditions. It can effectively address a variety of issues, including anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), attention-deficit disorders (ADD), breathing problems such as asthma, gastrointestinal issues including constipation and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), insomnia, and different types of pain such as headaches, fibromyalgia, and joint and muscle pain. Additionally, biofeedback has shown potential in assisting individuals with diabetes, epilepsy, high blood pressure, and substance use disorders like alcoholism and drug addiction. By harnessing the power of biofeedback, integrative medicine combines modern technology with holistic approaches to promote self-awareness and empower individuals to participate in their healing process actively. This section will provide further insight into how biofeedback is commonly used for panic attacks, anxiety, high blood pressure, and pain-associated conditions, including migraines, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), and IBS.

Biofeedback in Panic Attacks

Biofeedback therapy, particularly HRV (Heart Rate Variability) biofeedback, is used effectively for managing panic attacks. This therapy involves measuring vital signs to increase awareness of internalized stress and teach techniques for physiological control. Through monitoring heart rate variability, breathing patterns, and sweat rate, individuals gain insight and learn strategies to regulate their responses, promoting calmness and control. Resonant frequency (RF) paced breathing, a notable intervention within biofeedback therapy, enables individuals to regulate breaths per minute to prevent panic escalation consciously. By practicing breathing techniques and mindfulness exercises, individuals with panic attacks can regain control over their physiology and effectively manage anxiety.

Biofeedback in Migraines

Biofeedback is a noninvasive therapeutic approach that shows promise in treating migraines. It involves using sensors to collect data on various physiological functions such as heart rate, muscle tension, and blood pressure. By providing real-time feedback on these bodily responses, biofeedback helps individuals develop self-awareness and learn to employ relaxation techniques to prevent migraines. This method enables individuals to actively participate in managing their condition and potentially reduce the frequency and severity of migraine episodes.

Biofeedback For IBS

Biofeedback, specifically Heart Rate Variability (HRV) biofeedback, is a training method that provides insights into the body's nervous system. By measuring stress levels in the body, HRV biofeedback helps individuals gain awareness and control over their physiological responses. The heart is a prominent indicator of stress, exhibiting a smooth and rhythmic pattern called coherence when the body is relaxed. Increased coherence levels are associated with improved vagal tone, positively impacting overall health. Studies have demonstrated that HRV biofeedback can effectively alleviate symptoms of IBS by promoting relaxation and restoring balance to the body.

Biofeedback For Anxiety

Biofeedback therapy offers a mindful approach to managing anxiety by utilizing visual feedback of physiological measures on a computer screen, such as heart rate, breath rate, and temperature. Through focused intention and adjustments in posture and breathing, individuals learn to control these measures consciously. This practice of biofeedback has been shown to reduce levels of stress and alleviate symptoms associated with anxiety effectively.

Biofeedback For High Blood Pressure

Biofeedback therapy is a specialized mind-body approach that utilizes vital sign measurements to assist individuals in learning how to induce beneficial physiological changes. A systematic review encompassing 462 hypertensive participants found that biofeedback was an effective complementary treatment alongside pharmacotherapy in high blood pressure. The outcomes of biofeedback therapy included improvements in diastolic blood pressure and reductions in perceived stress levels, highlighting its potential as a valuable addition to the management of hypertension.

Biofeedback For Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Biofeedback therapy is a complementary and integrative medicine (CIM) approach that holds potential benefits for individuals with CFS. This therapeutic method encompasses monitoring physiological functions, including heart rate, muscle tension, and skin temperature. Individuals can effectively alleviate stress and enhance their well-being by learning to regulate and control these functions. Notably, biofeedback has demonstrated effectiveness in managing prevalent symptoms of CFS, such as chronic pain, anxiety, and sleep disturbances.

Functional Medicine Labs Commonly Used Alongside Biofeedback

Functional medicine labs commonly used alongside biofeedback are often associated with the conditions biofeedback is used for. They provide valuable insights into the underlying physiological factors related to the conditions being treated. This combination enhances the effectiveness of biofeedback therapy by incorporating a comprehensive assessment of underlying factors, leading to improved outcomes and a more patient-centered approach to care. Here are some functional labs commonly used with biofeedback:

Nutrient Deficiencies

Panic attacks, CFS, migraines, IBS, anxiety, and hypertension have been associated with certain nutrient deficiencies. Some conditions and their associated nutrients include antioxidants, vitamins C and E, iron, zinc, selenium, and omega-3 fatty acids for panic attacks and anxiety, B12 and Iron for fatigue, magnesium, B2, and CoQ10 for migraines, and potassium for cardiovascular health. Deficiencies can also be a result of conditions such as IBS. A micronutrient panel is one of the most essential functional labs to be incorporated with biofeedback. Incorporating biofeedback therapy alongside addressing these nutrient deficiencies could offer a comprehensive approach to managing many common conditions biofeedback is used for.

Comprehensive Stool Test

Another functional lab often used for most of the conditions that biofeedback treats is the comprehensive stool test. An imbalance of the microbiome is often linked to many of these conditions, including IBS, CFS, mental health issues, and hypertension. A comprehensive stool analysis evaluates the gut microbiome to identify dysbiotic patterns and other gut imbalances contributing to these conditions.

Comprehensive Hormone and Thyroid Panel

Comprehensive hormone panels can assess for imbalances in sex hormones, including progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, and estrogen levels. These imbalances are often seen in mental health issues, CFS, and high blood pressure. At the same time, a thyroid panel will assess the function of the thyroid, which can affect gut and mental health. Functional medicine doctors often run these labs together to get a complete picture of hormone function.

Neurotransmitter Panel

Testing for neurotransmitter levels can help assess any imbalances that may be contributing to conditions such as anxiety, panic attacks, and IBS. This test provides a complete picture of the association between these conditions and the serotonin, dopamine, and GABA neurotransmitters. This neurotransmitter panel can help enhance the therapeutic management of biofeedback in these conditions.



Biofeedback is a non-invasive technique used in integrative medicine to treat various conditions, including migraines, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), anxiety, and high blood pressure. It involves measuring and providing feedback on physiological signals such as heart rate, muscle tension, and skin temperature. By gaining awareness and control over these bodily functions, individuals can learn to regulate their responses and promote relaxation and well-being. Research suggests that biofeedback therapy can effectively reduce the frequency and severity of migraines, manage symptoms of CFS, alleviate anxiety, and serve as adjunctive therapy for high blood pressure. Biofeedback offers a holistic approach to patient care, empowering individuals to participate in their health actively.

The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplement or making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.
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