Biofeedback allows you to monitor processes within your body that you would normally not be aware of. Using special monitors, you can watch your heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, or other involuntary processes. Then, using special techniques, you can learn to control these functions.
Early biofeedback techniques
The idea of controlling functions such as heartbeat, breathing, blood pressure, body temperature and other involuntary bodily functions began thousands of years ago with early practices often related to spirituality. Many yogis, for example, are able to regulate their body temperature and oxygen use. These feats were seen as strange when they were first introduced to the Western world. However, when scientists began to investigate these techniques, they discovered several practical applications.
Roots of the science of biofeedback
In the 1930s, scientists Edmund Jacobson and Johann Schultz developed techniques that helped individuals regulate bodily processes. Jacobson's technique was called progressive relaxation, using alternating tension and relaxation to completely relax the body. Schultz developed autogenic relaxation, using repeated phrases to trigger deep relaxation. These two techniques formed the basis of what eventually came to be known as biofeedback.
The word biofeedback first came into use in the 1960s. At this time, scientists were experimenting with using special training and monitoring techniques to teach patients how to control autonomic functions, or functions that are normally not under conscious control. Many researchers thought at the time that continued experimentation would result in breakthroughs that would allow people to completely control all bodily functions.
Development of biofeedback techniques
Biofeedback does not allow you to completely control all your autonomic systems, but it can help you learn to control stress; reduce your blood pressure; and help with problems like incontinence, depression or chronic migraines. In a biofeedback session, you will learn to use a special monitoring device to track your body functions and determine the effectiveness of your attempts to change them. A qualified therapist will help you choose what kind of biofeedback technique will be most effective for your individual needs.
Precautions regarding biofeedback
Biofeedback is very safe and produces no side effects. However, it will probably prove ineffective if your therapist is not properly trained or if the monitoring equipment is not appropriate. Be sure to consult with your physician before seeking biofeedback treatment.