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Biofeedback for Blood Pressure - The facts

Biofeedback is a system that provides you with real-time information about your body — blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and skin temperature, for example — on the theory that if you are aware of this information, you can control it. You’re not usually aware of your heart rate, for example, so you may not know if it’s too high. Biofeedback makes you cognizant of it, thus allowing you to take measures to regulate it if necessary.

In recent years, people have begun to use biofeedback as a means of lowering their blood pressure. A biofeedback device called Resperate, helps people relax by slowing their breathing, which in turn reduces hypertension. There are other things you can do, too, that involve keeping tabs on your blood pressure and responding accordingly to keep it in check.

First is something called autogenic training, which involves learning to control body conditions such as muscle tension, heart rate, and blood flow. Much of this involves a mind-over-matter attitude. By seeing your blood pressure go up (through a monitor you can use yourself), you can identify the stressors that are causing it to happen. Then, having identified the things that cause your blood pressure to rise, you can take steps to overcome them, either by eliminating the stressors or learning to deal with them positively.

There is ample information on the Internet about autogenic training, including many stress-reducing exercises you can do from your desk or at work.

Another way to deal with hypertension through biofeedback is “temperature training.” Some research indicates that the temperature of your finger is an accurate indicator of your blood pressure. High stress causes your finger temperature to drop as the fight-or-flight response sends blood quickly away from the extremities and toward the vital organs. This means an increase in blood pressure — thus, lower finger temperature equals higher blood pressure.

There are devices you can buy that monitor your finger temperature. Then, with relaxation techniques and stress management, you can lower your blood pressure, which will manifest itself in a higher finger temperature.

These techniques usually won’t help people with extreme hypertension. Those who can benefit from biofeedback include people with normal-to-slightly-high blood pressure or mild hypertension, and those with a family history of high blood pressure who want to take preemptive measures against getting it themselves.

It should be stressed that while biofeedback and relaxation techniques can be helpful in reducing blood pressure, they are not to be substituted for a healthy diet, regular exercise and whatever medication your doctor has prescribed. Biofeedback should be in addition to those things, not instead of them. As a medical technique, biofeedback has proponents and detractors. It’s certainly not going to hurt your health, but it may not always help it, either.

To find a biofeedback practitioner near you, visit and enter your state. The database will then pull up a list of all the practitioners, along with contact information for them so you can find one suitable for your needs.

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