Biofeedback therapy is a mind-body technique that teaches people how to regulate body functions, thus balancing the autonomic nervous system. It has become widely used for treating various health conditions such as anxiety and stress disorders, pain, high blood pressure, and sleep issues.
A biofeedback session involves connecting you to sensors that monitor your heart rate, brain waves, breathing pattern and muscle tone. The data is transmitted to a device which displays the changes on a monitor. The practitioner then guides you through mental activities like meditation or guided imagery in order to alter how your body responds to stimuli.
Sensors on fingers, ears or skeletal muscles may be used to measure your heart rate (photoplethysmography) or an electrocardiograph that measures heart rate variability. Thermal biofeedback, which involves measuring hand temperature, has been known to alleviate symptoms associated with Raynaud disease and fibromyalgia.
A therapist may use a technique called the “galvanic skin response” to assist patients in recognizing when their sweat glands are active due to stress. This response causes constriction of small blood vessels in your arms and hands, decreasing circulation and leading to cold hands.
By identifying and relaxing the sympathetic nervous system, you can increase your hand’s temperature as well as improve autonomic functioning – relieving stress symptoms like fatigue, anxiety and headaches. Additionally, biofeedback may assist with urinary and fecal incontinence issues, along with rehabilitation conditions involving muscles and ligaments.