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Biofeedback for Cancer

What is biofeedback?

Biofeedback is a technique used to train your mind to control the way your body works. It uses devices that guide people to consciously regulate body processes that normally are automatic. The National Center of Complementary and Alternative Medicine groups biofeedback with other relaxation techniques or body-mind therapies, such as hypnosis, meditation, and prayer.

Can biofeedback help people with cancer?

Biofeedback has been shown to help patients reduce the severity and occurrence of headaches, insomnia, and chronic pain, but has not been found to affect cancer cells.

How does biofeedback work?

During biofeedback, a person is monitored with electrodes that are connected to electronic equipment in place to measure breathing (or respiratory rate), perspiration, skin temperature, blood pressure, and heartbeat. The results are displayed on a computer screen. Specific procedures or devices are used to measure each body change, including:

  • Electromyogram. This measures muscle tension.

  • Electrodermal activity. This measures changes in perspiration rate.

  • Finger pulse devices. These can measure blood pressure, oxygen level, and/or heart rate.

Once the electronic devices record these body signals, a biofeedback technician may recommend physical and mental exercises designed to teach a person how to relax and change the functions being measured. Biofeedback technicians are trained and nationally certified.

Are there any possible problems or complications associated with biofeedback?

There are no known side effects of this therapy.

Biofeedback, as an addition to your cancer treatment plan, has the potential to be pleasant and productive, improving quality of life. However, it should not replace the care and treatment provided by your cancer care team. Always consult your health care provider for more information.

Online Medical Reviewer: LoCicero, Richard, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ziegler, Olivia, MS, PA
Date Last Reviewed: 1/18/2016
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