Biofeedback: The Basics
What is Biofeedback?
Biofeedback is an integrative oncology practice. This may also be called “alternative” or “complementary” medicine. Biofeedback is not a cure for cancer. It may help relieve symptoms and works together with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and other treatments as part of your overall cancer care plan.
Biofeedback is a mind-body technique. Mind-body techniques use the power of thoughts or emotions to influence your physical health. You will work with a therapist/provider who is trained in this practice. Biofeedback uses visual (things you see) or auditory (thing you hear) feedback to teach you to recognize when your body is feeling stressed and anxious. Symptoms of stress or anxiety can include an increased heart rate, changes to body temperature, and feeling tense in your muscles.
The goal is to teach you to control how stress impacts your body and mind. By learning how to relax your mind and body, you can better manage your stress and anxiety.
What are some of the different types of biofeedback?
There are many different types of biofeedback. These include:
- Respiratory (breathing) biofeedback.
- Heart rate variability biofeedback.
- Skin biofeedback.
- Blood pressure biofeedback.
- Temperature biofeedback.
All of these require you to wear sensors attached to your skin to monitor areas of your body. While you are wearing the sensors, your therapist will use various relaxation techniques to help you manage stress and anxiety symptoms. These can include meditation, breathing, and visualization exercises. Practicing these methods can help you by slowing your breathing, helping you relax, and giving you a sense of control over your symptoms. Some studies have also shown it can be helpful in managing chemotherapy-related side effects like nausea/vomiting and “chemobrain.”
Biofeedback is non-invasive and may be effective when other methods for treating stress and anxiety have not helped or if you prefer not to take medications to manage stress and anxiety. Biofeedback helps you have a sense of control of your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. It uses relaxation methods to help manage your symptoms. For biofeedback to be helpful, you must be an active participant. You must practice and use the methods taught to you by your therapist when you sense stress and anxiety.
Is biofeedback covered by my insurance?
Biofeedback may be covered by your insurance as a behavioral/mental health treatment method. Always check with your insurance and your therapist about costs before starting any treatment. It is also important to talk with your cancer care team about any integrative methods you are using as part of your cancer treatment.
Resources for More Information
What Is Biofeedback Therapy? How Does It Fit Into Cancer Treatment?
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
Lazaridou, A., & Edwards, R. R. (2019). Relaxation techniques and biofeedback for cancer pain management. In Essentials of Interventional Cancer Pain Management (pp. 463-472). Springer, Cham.
Lehrer, P. M. (2018). Heart rate variability biofeedback and other psychophysiological procedures as important elements in psychotherapy. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 131, 89-95.
Moss, D. (2020). Biofeedback-Assisted Relaxation Training: A Clinically Effective Treatment Protocol. Biofeedback, 48(2), 32-40.
Russo, G. A., Oliveri, S., Cincidda, C., Guiddi, P., & Pravettoni, G. (2020). Exploring public attitude toward biofeedback technologies: Knowledge, preferences and personality tendencies. Journal of Public Health Research, 9(4).
Silva, E. A. (2018). Biofeedback as an Alternative for Pain Treatment in Cancer Patients. Advances in Oncology Research, 1.