What is Biofeedback for Stress

Dr. Joseph McCloud
January 5, 2024
7 minutes

Biofeedback is a technique often used in medical settings. It provides doctors with insight into various bodily functions. It involves connecting the patient to electrical sensors so they can receive information about the body.

The process can be used to address a variety of medical issues including emotional health. Once doctors determine how your body is reacting to stressors they can come up with measures to promote healing. This article will discuss how biofeedback addresses stress and how it can be useful in supporting mental wellness.

What Types of Biofeedback are Used to Measure Stress?

There are various types of biofeedback that can be used to measure stress. This includes the following.

Electroencephalograph (EEG): An EEG is used to determine how your brain waves react to stress. It measures stress levels and provides important feedback for stress relief. It can also determine how the brain is responding to stress-reducing measures.

Respiratory Biofeedback: During respiratory biofeedback, bands are placed around your abdomen and chest to monitor breathing patterns and respiration rate. It can determine how your breath rate speeds up in stressful situations. This can lead to recommendations on how to control breathing to improve mental and physical health.

Heart Rate Biofeedback: Heart rate can be measured with a photoplethysmograph which uses earlobe or finger sensors to detect changes in blood volume, or with an electrocardiograph which uses sensors on the chest, lower torso, and wrist to measure heart rate and heart rate variations (HRV). Most people are aware that stress speeds up heart rate and HRV. Once doctors determine the variations being produced, they can work with the patient to take steps to keep it under control.

Electromyograph (EMG): An EMG involves placing sensors over the skeletal muscles to monitor the electrical activity that causes muscle contraction. A 2014 study revealed that stress may lead to increased electromyography activity in specific muscles. It further established that this type of biofeedback may be used to test differences in stress susceptibility hence aiding subjects in developing a better stress response.

Electrodermograph (EDG): An Electrodermograph uses sensors attached around your fingers or on your palm or wrist to measure sweat gland activity and the amount of perspiration on your skin that occurs in stressful situations. High perspiration levels can be relieved with relaxation exercises. Once a doctor recognizes how you are affected they can recommend a stress-reducing routine.

Temperature Biofeedback: Temperature biofeedback involves more than a thermometer. It uses sensors attached to the fingers or feet to measure blood flow to your skin. Contrary to what some may think, stress actually causes body temperature to drop. So a low reading may prompt your doctor to recommend relaxation exercises.

Benefits of Biofeedback

Biofeedback can be used to monitor stress responses. Doctors may run machines while patients perform stress-reducing exercises to determine what’s working and what isn’t.

The method is preferred by patients and medical professionals for a variety of reasons including the following:

  • It’s non-invasive: Unlike surgeries and other types of medical procedures, biofeedback is noninvasive. That means it's lower in cost, it is associated with fewer complications, and it does not require a healing period or downtime.
  • It may eliminate or reduce the need for medication: Biofeedback can help patients discover exercises that reduce stress so they are less reliant on medications.
  • It may enhance the benefits of medication: Once stress-reducing exercises are determined, they can be used in conjunction with medication to reduce stress overall.
  • It can help people who can’t take medication: Some people are unable to take medication because they are pregnant or because they are dealing with medical conditions or side effects. Stress-relieving exercises determined through biofeedback can work as an effective substitute.
  • It helps people take control of their health: Once stress-relieving exercises are realized, they allow people to take control of their health. People who take control of their health gain education and tend to achieve better outcomes.

Can I Do Biofeedback at Home?

While most people don’t have access to the high-tech equipment doctors use, there are devices you can buy and use at home that will provide insight as to how stress is affecting you. For example, there are various fitness devices that measure things like heart rate, blood pressure, and HRV. This will give you some indication of when stress is getting out of control.

You can also try the Hanu Health app. The app was specifically designed to assist people with stress self-monitoring. Checking in daily can begin to enlighten you on how stress is affecting you. The app can help you find therapeutic exercises that keep your stress under control.

Don’t let stress take over your life. Hanu Health provides personalized data insights to develop the best version of you.