Empirical Support For Biofeedback

Scientific investigation of biofeedback has lagged behind its clinical application. This is true with both adult and child populations. Although a lot of literature on the topic has been published, empirical support for biofeedback has not clearly supported its widespread use.

Research during the late 1970s and 1980s focused on the use of biofeedback with adult populations for a variety of disorders. This literature base has been criticized for lack of scientific rigor. From the empirical studies that have been conducted with adults, biofeedback appears to be most useful in combination with other forms of biobehavioral interventions, most notably relaxation training. Specifically, support exists for the use of EMG biofeedback for tension headaches in combination with relaxation training. And, thermal biofeedback in combination with relaxation training appears to be effective in treating migraine headaches (Holroyd & Penzien, 1994).

Empirical studies of biofeedback with pediatric populations became more prevalent during the past decade. Similar to adults, empirical research with children and adolescents supports the use of biofeedback as part of a package of cognitive-behavioral treatment. Biofeedback-assisted relaxation training has been found to be efficacious in treating recurrent headache, particularly thermal biofeedback (Fentress, Masek, Mehegan, & Benson, 1986; Holden, Deichmann, & Levy, 1999). EMG biofeedback has also shown efficacy in treating emotion-induced asthma (McQuaid & Nassau, 1999). EMG biofeedback in combination with medical intervention has merit in treating functional encopre-sis (McGrath, Mellon, & Murphy, 2000), as does the related procedure of the bell and pad in treating nocturnal enuresis.

There is increasing evidence that children and adolescents do respond better than adults to biofeedback, at least in the area of headache management. Recent research on biofeedback has continued to empirically evaluate the efficacy of biofeedback treatment for other disorders (e.g., EEG biofeedback for ADHD) as well as compare the efficacy of different modes of biofeedback and potential mediators or mechanisms by which biofeedback may exert its effects (Hermann & Blanchard, 2002).

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