Efficacy of Biofeedback for Medical Conditions: an Evidence Map

Karli Kondo, Katherine M. Noonan, Michele Freeman, Chelsea Ayers, Benjamin J. Morasco, Devan Kansagara

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Background: Biofeedback is increasingly used to treat clinical conditions in a wide range of settings; however, evidence supporting its use remains unclear. The purpose of this evidence map is to illustrate the conditions supported by controlled trials, those that are not, and those in need of more research. Methods: We searched multiple data sources (MEDLINE, PsycINFO, CINAHL, Epistemonikos, and EBM Reviews through September 2018) for good-quality systematic reviews examining biofeedback for clinical conditions. We included the highest quality, most recent review representing each condition and included only controlled trials from those reviews. We relied on quality ratings reported in included reviews. Outcomes of interest were condition-specific, secondary, and global health outcomes, and harms. For each review, we computed confidence ratings and categorized reported findings as no effect, unclear, or insufficient; evidence of a potential positive effect; or evidence of a positive effect. We present our findings in the form of evidence maps. Results: We included 16 good-quality systematic reviews examining biofeedback alone or as an adjunctive intervention. We found clear, consistent evidence across a large number of trials that biofeedback can reduce headache pain and can provide benefit as adjunctive therapy to men experiencing urinary incontinence after a prostatectomy. Consistent evidence across fewer trials suggests biofeedback may improve fecal incontinence and stroke recovery. There is insufficient evidence to draw conclusions about effects for most conditions including bruxism, labor pain, and Raynaud’s. Biofeedback was not beneficial for urinary incontinence in women, nor for hypertension management, but these conclusions are limited by small sample sizes and methodologic limitations of these studies. Discussion: Available evidence suggests that biofeedback is effective for improving urinary incontinence after prostatectomy and headache, and may provide benefit for fecal incontinence and balance and stroke recovery. Further controlled trials across a wide range of conditions are indicated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2883-2893
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019


  • biofeedback
  • complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)
  • evidence map
  • neurofeedback

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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