Biofeedback Therapy

Biofeedback is a technique in which information about the body’s functions is recorded, in order to train the mind to control the body. By self-controlling the body, a person may find relief from a number of ailments including pain, stress, anxiety, muscle tension and inflammation. This form of meditation also helps return the body to a state in which it can better heal from a medical condition.

At CHOC Children’s, we have pediatric psychologists who are trained and certified to provide biofeedback therapy to children as young as seven years old. We use biofeedback therapy to help children understand:

  • How their mind and body interact
  • How their mind and body can be in balance (homeostasis)
  • How their mind can control their body so they feel better.

How does biofeedback work?

During a biofeedback session, instruments are connected to the child in a variety of ways. For example, a small, painless clip on the fingertip or ear measures blood oxygen saturation, another painless electrode that is taped to a finger measures temperature, and a lightweight belt around the chest measures respiration rate. The equipment is very comfortable and communicates wirelessly with a computer, so the child can move about freely.

The biofeedback equipment measures breathing, heart rate variability, body temperature, skin response such as sweat, and muscle tension. These measurements are displayed visually or audibly in an easy-to-understand way for children to observe their bodies. Our psychologists then teach children how to change these measurements using techniques such as biofeedback video games, guided imagery, breathing techniques and progressive muscle relaxation. For instance, a game may show waves that represent a child’s heart rate and breathing rate. The psychologist will instruct the child how to control their breathing so that these waves peak and flow at the same time. The data is also recorded so that it can be compared over time.

Biofeedback therapy can be done in our psychology office (outpatient) or in a patient’s hospital room (inpatient). Sessions are typically 45 minutes long. Because biofeedback therapy is a form of training, a child may have up to 12 sessions over a three-month period, with additional sessions as needed. Our goal is to teach children how to control their bodies on their own, so they will automatically use these skills during times of stress or pain.