Biofeedback therapy is a very good complimentary therapy for cancer patients. It does not cure cancer but helps cancer patients going through conventional treatment methods such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or surgery, to fight with the side effects.

Biofeedback is a technique used to train patients for improvement of different health conditions. It influences heart rate, blood pressure, mental anxiety and other physical process for betterment of the patient. It uses electronic devices to get immediate feedback as patients regulate their bodily functions through different relaxation techniques. It is categorized as a mind-body therapy by The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM).

It promotes relaxation by controlling different physical functions and thus reducing stress, tension, anxiety and pain. It helps in the well-being of a patient. It uses monitoring devices to help patients control physical processes such as heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, sweating, and muscle tension. It has shown proven results in retaining, repairing and strengthening muscles after surgery, reinstating loss of control, nerve damage, and improving urinary or bowel incontinence.

The most commonly used biofeedback therapies are:

  • Electromyography (EMG) for measurement of muscle tension
  • Thermal biofeedback for measurement of skin temperature
  • Neuro-feedback or electroencephalography (EEG) to measures brain wave activity.

Other biofeedback processes involve Electrodermal activity (EDA), which shows changes in perspiration rate, finger pulse measurements for blood pressure, heart beat irregularities, and anxiety and breathing rate monitoring. A patient is monitored with electrodes connected to electronic equipment to measure different physical processes. Patients may be advised to do different physical and mental exercises custom made for them. Results of these monitoring devices are displayed on a computer screen to help the patient see the improvement.

Use of Biofeedback in Cancer Treatment

Biofeedback is used to check different symptoms and side effects of conventional treatment. It helps patients to reduce many related problems such as urinary incontinence, hot flashes, nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, stress, anxiety, back pain, constipation, depression, headaches, migraines and high blood pressure.

Side Effects of Biofeedback

Normally, there is no side effect of Biofeedback treatment as it is one of many relaxation techniques. But patients using pacemaker may have some difficulty as it uses electric pulses for relaxation.  It may interfere with other therapies used so diabetic patients should consult their doctor before using biofeedback. Patients suffering from major mental health disorders including psychosis and severe depression should avoid this treatment.

Biofeedback is approved by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for complementary treatment of chronic pain and insomnia. It is given by medical practitioners, who are certified by Biofeedback Certification Institute of America. Biofeedback is given by psychiatrists, psychologists, trained nurses, dentists and physicians as it involves many processes. One can have information about a good biofeedback practitioner from The Association for Applied Psychology and Biofeedback.