is a mind-body technique in which a practitioner uses
a special monitoring machine to teach people how to
control bodily functions, such as heart rate, blood
pressure, skin temperature, and muscle tension, in order
to improve their health and well-being.
The first important studies on biofeedback were conducted
in the late 1960s by Barbara Brown, of the Veterans
Administration Hospital in Sepulveda, California, and
Elmer and Alyce Green of the Menninger Foundation, a
clinical and research center for mental illness in Topeka,
Kansas. Prior to these studies, it was thought that
the body's autonomic functions--heart rate, digestion,
blood pressure, brain waves, and muscle behavior, for
example--could not be voluntarily controlled. The researchers'
studies of Indian yogi masters showed that the nervous
system and metabolic rate could be consciously regulated.
Their work led to an exploration of the use of biofeedback
for a wide range of physical ailments, including migraine
headaches, insomnia, and circulatory and gastrointestinal
disorders. How Does It Work? During biofeedback, the
therapist uses electronic equipment to help you understand
how your body responds physiologically to various situations--to
stress, pain, or other conditions.
The therapist will also teach you relaxation techniques,
such as guided imagery and progressive muscle relaxation,
to provide a way to actively control these bodily responses.
While biofeedback is known to be quite effective for
stress, it differs from other stress-reduction techniques
in that it focuses on a particular stress response--tension
in the neck and shoulders, for example, or variations
in breathing patterns--rather than on relaxing the whole
body. With help from the therapist, you learn to control
the actions of your nervous system during and after
times of stress.