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Biofeedback is a mind and body technique that teaches patients how to control certain physiological responses such as breathing and heart rate. The goal of biofeedback is to increase awareness and control over certain body functions. In other words, biofeedback can help children become the “boss” of their bodies and is a way to make the mind-body connection real and visible for kids. Biofeedback training can help patients manage disease symptoms, stress, and side effects.
During cancer treatment, biofeedback may help patients manage:
Biofeedback uses special equipment to detect and monitor physiological signals through sensors placed on the body, usually on the skin. Depending on what is measured, sensors are placed in different areas such as fingers, wrist, earlobes, scalp, or chest. Patients are able to see the results on a screen in real time so that they become more aware of specific body activities. Through practice, children can learn to control these functions.
Biofeedback sensors measure vital functions such as:
This is an interactive process. The therapist uses this information to help the patient focus on making small changes in the body and mind to produce specific results. For example, a higher heart rate reading may indicate stress. The therapist may use a relaxation technique to reduce stress and lower heart rate. Or, results of electromyography (EMG), which measures muscle activity, could be used to help the patient relax certain muscles that could be causing pain or discomfort.
The ultimate goal is for patients to use the feedback from the sensors to learn techniques to gain control over body responses and improve health.
With repeated sessions and practice, patients learn to recognize physiological changes in their body and how to use specific strategies to control physiological responses.
Biofeedback is non-invasive and considered safe. However, sensors could cause skin irritation for patients undergoing certain kinds of treatment. Biofeedback is most effective when taught by a certified provider with advanced training. Patients and families interested in biofeedback are encouraged to discuss it with their care team.
Reviewed: June 2018