What Is Biofeedback Therapy?

Biofeedback training is a non-invasive treatment protocol designed to help patients improve their stress-related symptoms by leveraging the mind-body connection to reach a deep state of relaxation.

By tapping into the mind-body connection via biofeedback therapy, patients can better control their body’s involuntary functions, including:

  • Blood flow to the extremities
  • Blood pressure
  • Heart rate
  • Muscle tension
  • Pain perception

Biofeedback therapy can also reduce or alleviate the symptoms of many stress-related disorders or processes, including:

At the Drake Institute, we view the mind as the body’s greatest healing agent, and for over 40 years, we have used Biofeedback treatment and other non-drug treatment protocols to successfully treat over 15,000 patients.

For more information regarding the Drake Institute’s non-drug treatments for stress and anxiety, please fill out our contact form or call us at 800-700-4233 for a free consultation.

Voluntary vs. Involuntary Functions

The functions of our body can be broken down into two categories: voluntary and involuntary.

Voluntary functions include actions like moving your arms to swing a baseball bat or reaching to shake someone’s hand. We have great control over voluntary functions, including over the nuances of these movements, and we are typically conscious of these movements from start to finish.

On the other hand, involuntary functions are carried out by smooth, non-striated muscles that cannot be controlled by our will; instead, these functions operate all on their own, and they happen in the background, without any conscious control.

For example, getting into a proper baseball hitting stance is a form of voluntary function, as you have to first visualize what this stance looks like and then “tell” your body to move into the optimal position.

In contrast, getting your heart to beat is an involuntary function, as you don’t have to visualize what a proper heartbeat should look like, nor do you have to “tell” your heart to beat—it just does!

That said, there are several ways that we can influence the behavior of involuntary functions regulated by the autonomic nervous system. For example, breathing exercises and meditation can slow your heartbeat and help you reach a state of relaxation. 

These same exercises can help lower your blood pressure and reduce your levels of stress and anxiety, as well.

In short, Biofeedback techniques can help facilitate improvements for involuntary functions such as cardiac, digestive, and immune function. Biofeedback training/treatment can improve conscious control over involuntary physiologic processes. When you are trying to relax and reduce psychophysiologic tensions, Biofeedback informs you when you are doing it correctly. It enables and empowers you to reach deeper levels of physiological relaxation, which can result in more symptom reduction.

How Does Biofeedback Work?

During Biofeedback therapy, no drugs are administered and the body is not stimulated in any way; instead, sensors are placed in strategic areas of the patient’s body to measure heart rate, muscle tension, hand temperature, sweat gland activity in the fingers, and brain wave activities.

As an example, sensors may be placed on the forehead to provide patients with real-time feedback regarding their current muscle tension in the facial muscles.

With the guidance of a medical professional, Biofeedback therapy can help patients exercise greater control over physiologic functions regulated by the autonomic nervous system, which in turn, can lower their tension, stress, and anxiety, which as we mentioned earlier, may help reduce symptoms for stress-related disorders and even ADHD.

Types of Biofeedback Treatment

Biofeedback is used to measure and provide feedback for all kinds of involuntary physiologic functions. Below are some examples of Biofeedback therapy or treatment:  

Brain Waves

EEG Biofeedback, or Neurofeedback, can provide patients with a “window” into their current brainwave activity, and can be used to improve abnormal brainwave patterns to achieve symptom reduction for anxiety and stress disorders.

Heart Rate

Biofeedback has also shown to be useful in producing a more optimal or stronger heart rate. Heart rate variability, or the variation in times between heartbeats, is an indicator of how strong or resilient the autonomic nervous system is at that point in time. By training to increase heart rate variability, an individual can develop greater resilience to anxiety and stress disorders, as well as help reduce symptoms such as depression, asthma, and even high blood pressure.  

Muscle Tension

For individuals with tense muscles, Biofeedback therapy can be used to help patients relax and reduce muscle and ligament pain. Facial muscle tension is wired into the autonomic nervous system. By reducing facial muscle tension, one can improve autonomic nervous system functioning, thereby reducing stress symptoms.

Galvanic Skin Response

Galvanic skin response refers to our body’s sweat gland activity and how it changes due to an emotional response. Indeed, stress and anxiety can trigger this response, and Biofeedback therapy can not only help patients identify this side effect of stress but also reduce or resolve it.

Hand Temperature

The sympathetic nervous system (one aspect of the autonomic nervous system) becomes over-activated during stress as you shift into the fight or flight response. This results in the constriction of the small blood vessels in our arms and hands, thus reducing blood flow causing colder hands. With the help of Biofeedback treatment/training, patients can identify when this is occurring and then learn how to increase your hand temperature as a result of relaxing your sympathetic nervous system. This can also cause a reduction in blood pressure.

What Can Biofeedback Treat?

Biofeedback therapy can be used to treat a wide variety of disorders and conditions, including:

  • Addiction
  • Anxiety or stress
  • Asthma
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Chemotherapy side effects
  • Chronic pain
  • Constipation
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Headache
  • High blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Panic Attacks
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Raynaud's disease
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)


Why Use Biofeedback Treatment/Training?

Compared to other treatment protocols, Biofeedback treatment/training has several advantages, including:

  • It's noninvasive.
  • It allows some patients to reduce or even eliminate their need for medications.
  • It can be used in tandem with medications or psychotherapy to amplify the effects of these treatments.
  • It can provide benefits to patients for whom medications may not be an option.
  • It improves self-confidence and helps people feel more in control of their health.

Biofeedback vs. Neurofeedback

Biofeedback is the feedback of physiologic functions such as heart rate, hand temperature, muscle tension, blood pressure, and sweat gland activity. In contrast, Neurofeedback is simply EEG Biofeedback, or in other words, Biofeedback of brainwave activity.

Neurofeedback can be extremely useful in treating certain neurological conditions like ADD, ADHD, Autism, addictions, insomnia, depression, panic attacks, and other related conditions.

Biofeedback at The Drake Institute

At the Drake Institute, we believe that leveraging the mind-body connection is not only important but vital to achieving symptom relief for anxiety and stress-related disorders.

That’s why the Drake Institute has offered advanced treatment protocols like Biofeedback and Neurofeedback for over 40 years.

Our goal has always been to help patients achieve symptom relief without the use of medications or invasive procedures, and biofeedback is just one of the effective methods we use to deliver positive results.

Because our treatment protocols don’t rely on the temporary results generated by medications, patients can experience long-term symptom relief, and in some cases, their symptoms don’t return at all.

Long-term relief is possible because the results generated from Bio- and Neurofeedback therapies not only address the patient’s current levels of stress and anxiety, but the improvements are internally self-generated so it enables patients to self-regulate their own physiologic response in the future.   

Contact The Drake Institute Today

If you or anyone you know is suffering from stress, anxiety, depression, or any other stress-related disorder, please don’t hesitate to fill out our contact form or call us at 800-700-4233 for a free consultation.

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To get the help you or a loved one needs, call now to schedule your no-cost screening consultation.

dr david velkoff headshot

“David F. Velkoff, M.D., our Medical Director and co-founder, supervises all evaluation procedures and treatment programs. He is recognized as a physician pioneer in using biofeedback, qEEG brain mapping, neurofeedback, and neuromodulation in the treatment of ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and stress related illnesses including anxiety, depression, insomnia, and high blood pressure. Dr. David Velkoff earned his Master’s degree in Psychology from the California State University at Los Angeles in 1975, and his Doctor of Medicine degree from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta in 1976. This was followed by Dr. Velkoff completing his internship in Obstetrics and Gynecology with an elective in Neurology at the University of California Medical Center in Irvine. He then shifted his specialty to Neurophysical Medicine and received his initial training in biofeedback/neurofeedback in Neurophysical Medicine from the leading doctors in the world in biofeedback at the renown Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas. In 1980, he co-founded the Drake Institute of Neurophysical Medicine. Seeking to better understand the link between illness and the mind, Dr. Velkoff served as the clinical director of an international research study on psychoneuroimmunology with the UCLA School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and the Pasteur Institute in Paris. This was a follow-up study to an earlier clinical collaborative effort with UCLA School of Medicine demonstrating how the Drake Institute's stress treatment resulted in improved immune functioning of natural killer cell activity. Dr. Velkoff served as one of the founding associate editors of the scientific publication, Journal of Neurotherapy. He has been an invited guest lecturer at Los Angeles Children's Hospital, UCLA, Cedars Sinai Medical Center-Thalians Mental Health Center, St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California, and CHADD. He has been a medical consultant in Neurophysical Medicine to CNN, National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, Univision, and PBS.”

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