Biofeedback is a treatment method that uses monitoring instruments to provide patients with physiological information of which they are normally unaware. In the 1960s, experimental psychologist Neal Miller demonstrated that the autonomic nervous system—which controls heart rate, blood pressure, blood flow to various organs, and gastrointestinal activity—is entirely trainable. In succeeding decades the validity of Miller’s observations was documented in thousands of articles and books, leading to widespread application of this technique. Today, biofeedback is used to treat a wide variety of conditions and diseases including stress, drug addiction, sleep disorders, epilepsy, fecal and urinary incontinence, headaches, and high blood pressure (Health Alternative Biofeedback, Eeg Biofeedback).
A patient at a biofeedback clinic sits connected to electrodes on his head and finger. Biofeedback is a technique in which patients attempt to become aware of and then alter bodily functions such as muscle tension and blood pressure. It is used in treating pain and stress-related conditions, and may help some paralyzed patients regain the use of their limbs (Health Alternative Biofeedback, Eeg Biofeedback).
By watching a monitoring device, patients learn by trial and error to adjust their mental processes in order to control bodily processes. Electrodes are attached to the area of the patient being monitored—for instance, to the involved muscles during muscle therapy, or to the head during brain-wave monitoring. These electrodes feed the electrical information to a small monitoring box. The results are registered by a tone that varies in pitch or by a visual meter that varies in brightness as the function being monitored changes. The patient engages in mental exercises, in an attempt to reach the desired result, such as muscle relaxation or contraction. Voluntary control may be achieved in as few as ten sessions, although chronic or severe disorders may require longer therapy. Eventually, patients may learn to control symptoms without the use of the monitoring device (Health Alternative Biofeedback, Eeg Biofeedback).