Biofeedback is a method of monitoring minute changes in bodily functioning by means of various small electronic machines. The machines are attached to an individual via electrodes and may be used to measure heart rate, brain-wave patterns, body temperature or respiratory rate. This information – about the autonomic nervous system -shows the level of relaxation or arousal in the body, and can be used consciously to influence bodily processes that were once thought to be beyond voluntary control. Biofeedback is not itself a therapy, but is used in conjuction with the teaching of relaxation or meditation techniques, often including breathing and visualization therapy. By being able to monitor your level of relaxation, it is possible to learn how to change your physiological responses and vice versa.

The machine will register certain bodily activities by a high-pitched sound or a dial. In response to a reduction in the stress response in the body, the dial will register a lower level or the high-pitched sound will become low-pitched. The technique reinforces an individual’s success with their relaxation method. Biofeedback training may be given in groups or on a one-to-one basis. It aims to accelerate the process of learning how to relax or meditate, so that one can quickly become independent of the machines while using the knowledge gained from them.

Biofeedback can be used to treat stress-related conditions such as insomnia, anxiety, fears, raised blood pressure and asthma. It is also useful, in conjunction with cardiovascular drugs, for controlling an irregular heartbeat. Migraines and muscular tension can be soothed with meditation techniques and biofeedback can reinforce this. It has also been found to be effective in relieving chronic pain, and for retraining muscles if their function has been lost after an illness or accident.