What is biofeedback?

Biofeedback is a therapy in which unconscious physical processes – such as muscle activity – are measured and visualised, with the aim of enabling the patient to consciously influence these processes. It is based on the values measured for muscle activity, which are communicated acoustically to the patient via signals or visually via a diagram. To record and analyse muscular activity, an electromyography (EMG) is performed – a measurement technique that “aims at assessing muscle function by examining the electrical signal that the muscles produce".

The electromyogram allows not only the status of muscular activity to be recorded, but also muscular tone to be observed during certain movements or training or therapy sessions. During the course of biofeedback therapy, the values measured and recorded in this way are defined as threshold values. The patient is then informed via signals when the values fall above or below these thresholds, thus enabling them to deliberately control and increase exertion or excitation levels.

The precise level at which the threshold is set – e.g. when the muscle is at rest – and the moment when a signal is triggered – for example when reaching or maintaining a certain level of exertion – depends on the purpose of the therapy. In this way a specific muscle or muscle group can be specifically trained and strengthened, as might be the case in incontinence therapy. For example, this method is often used in incontinence therapy to strengthen the pelvic floor, so that the cause of incontinence can be tackled directly.1


1 EMG-Fibel –Eine praktische Einführung in die kinesiologische Elektromyographie, Peter Konrad, Version 1.0 September 2005