Biofeedback found beneficial for headaches, incontinence and stroke recovery

A few years ago, when my migraines were at their worst, a friend of mine suggested I try a different type of treatment in hopes of finding relief.

Considering that I was out of options, in pain, and stuck in bed more often than not, hiding from too much light and too much noise, I really didn’t have much to lose. After all, I had already given in and tried just about every supplement, prescription drug, and even Botox injections to try to ease my headaches, what were a few more doctors’ visits, right?

The treatment she recommended was biofeedback – something far different than anything I had tried before, but she swore that it had helped her headaches.

If you haven’t heard of it before, biofeedback is pretty much what it sounds like.

You’re hooked up to instruments and machines that measure your biological responses and you’re taught to use that feedback to control and change those responses in order to feel better. They can measure your muscle activity, heart rate, blood pressure, and even brainwaves. And, the therapist can even pair the biofeedback with treatments to help you alter your behavior, thoughts, and emotions.

Once considered a new age therapy, for many people, the treatment sounds rather esoteric or as my dad said, “woo woo.” I was a little skeptical, too. However, I was pleasantly surprised and although it didn’t get rid of my migraines for good, I definitely felt better, with fewer headache days and migraines that didn’t last even half as long as before.

Now, a new study has taken a deep look at biofeedback and proven its worth not only in the treatment of headaches but also in two other difficult-to-treat conditions.

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Low-risk, cost-effective, great results

The meta-analysis, by a team at the VA Portland Health Care System and Oregon Health & Science University, looked at the results of 16 separate scientific studies, creating what they called an “evidence map” to determine which conditions respond to biofeedback.

And, here’s what they found…

There was clear evidence that biofeedback works when it comes to reducing headache pain. In fact, the team found that biofeedback, including muscle activity monitoring using electromyography (EMG), skin temperature, and blood pressure were all effective for headaches, decreasing the frequency, duration, and intensity of both migraine and tension headaches.

They even found that it was likely that it can help headache sufferers with issues like medication use, muscle tension, anxiety, and even depression.

Related: 7 steps to fewer migraines

And, there was more…

The team of researchers discovered that biofeedback can help with both urinary and fecal incontinence – two difficult and potentially embarrassing issues.

According to the researchers, biofeedback using EMG in addition to pelvic floor muscle training is perfect for urinary incontinence in men after prostate removal surgery, while EMG biofeedback alone can improve the outcomes in fecal incontinence for both men and women.

They even found that adding biofeedback to therapy for lower-limb activity after stroke can help aid in recovery.

When asked about the potential the team found, Dr. Karli Kondo of the VA Evidence Synthesis Program and OHSU, first author on the study, says, “We are encouraged by the positive findings and the additional findings of potential benefits for a wide range of conditions. Biofeedback is a low-risk, cost-effective intervention.”

In other words, biofeedback can no longer be considered esoteric or “woo woo,” as dad would say. It’s a proven treatment that could provide real benefits if you live with headaches or incontinence or have had a stroke. So, if that’s you or someone you love, it’s time to give it a try and finally find relief.


  1. Review: Biofeedback could help treat a number of conditions — Veterans Affairs Research Communications
Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

By Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

Dr. Adria Schmedthorst is a board-certified Doctor of Chiropractic, with more than 20 years of experience. She has dedicated herself to helping others enjoy life at every age through the use of alternative medicine and natural wellness options. Dr. Schmedthorst enjoys sharing her knowledge with the alternative healthcare community, providing solutions for men and women who are ready to take control of their health the natural way.