The Benefits of Biofeedback

“The Benefits of Biofeedback” by Deborah Katz @ US News & world report. This article about biofeedback and use of biofeedback machines ran in the June 16, 2008 issue.

The Benefits of Biofeedback

It’s gaining ground as a stress-management tool

By Deborah Kotz – Posted June 5, 2008 on US News & World Report

Because she was planning to get pregnant, Janelle (who preferred not to give her last name) decided last year to go off powerful medication for stress-induced migraines in favor of a more fetus-friendly therapy. With sensors attached to her fingertips, neck, and abdomen, she spent 20 sessions learning to relax her muscles and slow her breathing and heart rate while watching a computer monitor for proof of the desired result. Eventually, she was able to do the work on her own. “The migraine pain doesn’t go away completely,” says the 39-year-old from Bethesda, Md., who has remained off medication since her son’s birth two months ago. “But it’s been greatly reduced, and I’m able to deal with it better.”

Like meditation and yoga, the biofeedback method that Janelle now swears by is enjoying a sort of renaissance; while it’s been around for some 40 years, a growing body of research has brought it to the mainstream, indicating that it can relieve some hard-to-manage conditions exacerbated by stress. Many major hospitals and clinics, including Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Duke University Medical Center, now offer biofeedback to people with hypertension and jaw pain as well as headaches, for example. And new pocket-size gadgets have hit the market that let you do it yourself.

Biofeedback’s major appeal is that one series of sessions purportedly teaches a set of skills you can use for life—without side effects. And it’s pre-emptive. “Biofeedback teaches you to identify early signs that stress is starting to get to you and to bring that stress reaction down before it causes physical symptoms,” explains Frank Andrasik, a professor of psychology at the University of West Florida in Pensacola who serves as editor-in-chief of the journal Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback.

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