A process of giving a person auditory or visual clues about such physiologic functions as blood pressure, skin temperature, and muscle tension so that the person can learn to control these functions through trial and error. Biofeedback is most commonly used to relieve stress. Because stress and pain feed off each other, biofeedback, especially when combined with relaxation techniques, is helpful in treating chronic pain, including chronic pain from arthritis and related conditions. In small studies in people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), biofeedback helped reduce stress and pain, improved sleep, and decreased clinic visits and hospital stays. Biofeedback can be very successful in treating Raynaud phenomenon, a condition characterized by acute attacks of coldness in the hands and feet. Raynaud phenomenon is commonly seen in people with arthritis-related disorders such as RA, systemic lupus erythematosus, and scleroderma. Using biofeedback, people with Raynaud phenomenon have learned to raise the skin temperature in their extremities.

In the beginning, biofeedback therapy requires the use of certain equipment and the assistance of a therapist, but the goal is to be able to perform the techniques on your own. To find a biofeedback therapist, consult your health-care team, or contact the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback at (800) 477-8892.

Want to learn more about biofeedback? Read “How Biofeedback Can Help Relieve Pain.”

Robert S. Dinsmoor is a medical writer and editor based in Massachusetts.

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