What is biofeedback exactly?

The principle of bio feedback is to monitor your body parameters and use different techniques to bring your body and brain back in a relaxed state. Electrodes are used to monitor the heart rate, blood pressure, brain waves, breathing, skin sweat and muscle tension. These body reactions change with your stress levels. During biofeedback sessions, with the help of a trained therapist and with the appropriate equipment, you will learn to listen to your body responses and then react in a way that relaxes you.

What’s the difference between biofeedback and neurofeedback?

Biofeedback uses the monitoring of body parameters. Neurofeedback uses EEG (electrodes on the hear) to monitor the electrical activity of the brain. There is less evidence on neurofeedback than biofeedback, but one study published in 2010 shows a 70% response rate (50%m decrease in migraine frequency) in patients treated with both techniques.

What are the techniques used to relax?

Consciously relaxing muscles is a technique that can be used. For example, one way to do BFB is to become aware of the tension in the jaw and face muscles with electrodes, and consciously relaxing them. With time, the person becomes able to relax the muscle everywhere, even without the equipment. Another very powerful technique is to breathe in a way that will slow down the heart and lower the stress response. Some therapists use computer programs that can find the optimal breathing rhythm to relax a specific individual.

Is there proof that biofeedback is useful for migraine prevention?

Biofeedback is an accepted technique for headache control. Studies have demonstrated that biofeedback can help to reduce headache frequency and severity. BFB techniques can be used during an attack to decrease the stress response. Biofeedback has no side effects and is completely safe, including during pregnancy. There is actually one interesting study showing a benefit of biofeedback started before pregnancy to protect the woman even after childbirth.

What are the limitations of biofeedback?

BFB is time consuming. It requires a commitment from the patient. Finding a trained therapist who has the equipment is not easy.

Cost may be a factor. Depending on health coverage, this may not be covered on all health plans and may be beyond the patient’s means. This being said, learning a powerful technique withna therapist may be worth the investment.

Could I use the relaxation techniques of biofeedback without the monitoring?

Absolutely. Here are some examples. Read more here

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) uses a sequence of contraction and relaxation of different muscles that can be learned and practiced. Some people find it very helpful to manage chronic muscle tensions and it is cheaper and more empowering than a massage.

Breathing techniques are almost magic. They have been used for centuries and are part of yoga and martial arts. Soldier and athletes use breathing to master their emotions and gain back control in stressful situations. Even with no monitoring device, most people can practice breathing techniques that bring relaxation and decrease the load on the brain. Some examples include vipassana and 4-6-2 breathing. Honestly, even sitting with eyes closed and focusing on the breathing for 10 breaths can do wonders.


  • Stokes DA, Lappin MS. Neurofeedback and biofeedback with 37 migraineurs: a clinical outcome study. Behav Brain Funct. 2010;6:9.
  • Pfaller A. Efficacy of biofeedback in the treatment of migraine and tension type headaches. Pain Physician. 2010;13(1):94-6; author reply 6.
  • Andrasik F. Biofeedback in headache: an overview of approaches and evidence. Cleve Clin J Med. 2010;77 Suppl 3:S72-6.