Biofeedback operates on the notion that we have the innate ability and potential to
influence the automatic functions of our bodies through the exertion of will and mind.
Biofeedback has recently been shown to give us what had previously seemed an impossible
degree of control over a variety of physiologic events.
For example, a person can be trained in a matter of days to cause the temperature of
one hand to rise five to ten degrees higher than that of the other hand, while not
contracting the hand muscles. What is amazing is that even animals can be trained. In one
experiment, researchers trained a laboratory rat to produce a differential in the
temperature of its two ears in order to receive a food reward.
This experiment, although it appears to satisfy science fiction enthusiasts at first,
nevertheless has practical applications. When people trained in biofeedback cause their
hands to quickly become warmer than normal, this can effectively short-circuit a migraine
attack. The blood which ordinarily engorges the blood vessels of the head in migraine is
diverted to the hands and arms. This effectively removes the headache. In cases of
"pure" migraine, a person can be successfully taught this technique and stop
headaches in a week or less. However in 90 percent of migraine cases, there is chronic
tension that must also be treated over a longer period of time by biofeedback relaxation
techniques. Biofeedback can also be used to train persons to block the pain of colitis,
neuritis, and other conditions. Many of these techniques have been scientifically proven.
Using a special machine and sensors to record muscle contractions and skin temperature,
you can learn to control normally involuntary processes such as heart rate and blood
pressure that increase under stress. The machine "feeds back" the efforts and
eventually you can recognize and control facets of the stress response by yourself. Once
viewed with skepticism, the control of "involuntary" responses is now seen to be
effective in the treatment of migraine headaches, asthma and other disorders in certain