Different types of biofeedback treatment are used to monitor and regulate a variety of physiological reactions to stress. Biofeedback therapy has been successful in regulating heart rate, blood pressure, skin temperature and muscle tension. Some different types of biofeedback treatment include electromyography (EMG), thermal biofeedback, electrodermal response (EDR) and neurofeedback or electroencephalography (EEG).
One type of biofeedback treatment is EMG, which measures muscle tension. EMG has shown some success in stimulating nerves and even providing some mobility in muscles and limbs that have been paralyzed due to stroke. The theory is that even though there is little to no sensation in the muscles, the biofeedback monitor can detect some electrical activity. When the patient hears or sees the feedback, his or her nervous system will sometimes send more electrical activity to that limb.
The more common use of EMG biofeedback is treating and monitoring chronic muscle tension caused by stress. Ideally, when the patient hears or sees the biofeedback data in real-time, he or she will be able to focus and affect the feedback with the help of a biofeedback therapist using relaxation and other cognitive techniques. When the patient is successful, he or she can see or hear the results from the biofeedback machine. Eventually, many patients are able to practice biofeedback therapy on their own, without the aid of the therapist or monitoring system.
Another example of the different types of biofeedback is thermal biofeedback. Thermal biofeedback measures skin temperature. This treatment is very helpful in measuring stress responses. When a person experiences stress, his or her blood flows primarily toward muscles and organs, causing the skin temperature to drop. Thermal biofeedback can also help in treating circulatory problems.
EDR measures emotional arousal by determining the electrical conductivity of the patient's skin. EDR is also referred to as galvanic skin response (GSH). The conductivity is directly related to the activity of the sweat glands. EDR has been used in lie detector tests. It is also used to treat anxiety, phobias and excessive sweating.
EEG is also a common type of biofeedback treatment. EEG, or neurofeedback, measures brain wave activity. Of all the different types of biofeedback treatment, EEG has been most effectively used on children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It can also be effective in treating migraines in children and adults.
Not only are there different types of biofeedback treatment, there are also different ways to measure biofeedback results. During a biofeedback session, electrodes are placed on the patient's skin. The electrodes send information to the biofeedback machine, which then translates the information to either a tone, a visual meter or a line on a graph. As the biofeedback information changes, so does the pitch of the tone, brightness of the visual meter or line on the graph.