Biofeedback

Biofeedback for the treatment of migraine headaches: an introduction

Biofeedback is a painless, noninvasive process that uses electrical sensors to monitor the body’s functions and provide information on a computer or video display. With biofeedback, the physiological responses of the body, which are usually not noticed by the patient, are sensed with the electrical sensors and computer. The visual or auditory feedback the patient experiences from the technology provide awareness of these bodily functions. Patients soon learn to influence the responses and manipulate these physiological events.1

Some people with migraine have found that using biofeedback can learn how to control or lessen their migraine symptoms, such as reducing pain.

Biofeedback measurements

There are several different measurements that may be taken during a biofeedback session, which are chosen based on the individual’s goals, such as:

  • Heart rate
  • Blood pressure
  • Brain waves
  • Skin temperature
  • Breathing
  • Muscle tension
  • Sweat1

Electrodes are attached the person’s body so that the measurements can be seen on monitors. Therapists who specialize in biofeedback teach the participant how to change the body’s functions by using their thought patterns or relaxing different muscles in the body.

Conditions that may benefit from biofeedback

Biofeedback is used for a variety of conditions, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Tension headache
  • Chronic pain
  • Asthma
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Anxiety
  • Motion sickness
  • Urinary incontinence1

Biofeedback for migraine has also been shown in some studies to be a helpful natural remedy for those who suffer from persistent migraines.

Research on biofeedback and migraine

A meta-analysis (a study that searches through recently published literature to review research trials) published in 2007 evaluated 55 trials of biofeedback and migraines. Researchers found that biofeedback was more effective than control conditions, and biofeedback had the strongest improvement in the frequency of migraine and perceived self-efficacy (the confidence of the individuals in being able to engage their learned strategies).2

Things to consider about biofeedback for migraine

Biofeedback is considered safe. Since no drugs, supplements or product are put in the body, there haven’t been side effects reported.

Discuss with your doctor to determine if muscle contraction done during biofeedback may harm any existing conditions.

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As always, the best source for advice on treating migraine is your own migraine specialist. These descriptions of natural remedies are provided only for informational purposes. You should begin no medication or supplement without first checking with your physician.

Written by: Emily Downward | Last review date: May 2018
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