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Can thermal biofeedback reduce pain and anxiety?



A novel handheld tool may hold promise for reducing anxiety and pain and improving sleep quality, according to research presented at Lifestyle Medicine 2023, the annual meeting of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine.


  • Franklin Somchith Ly, a PhD candidate in mechanical engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara, developed , a product that assesses blood flow to the hand with an infrared temperature sensor and changes color as blood vessels expand during relaxation.
  • Exercises such as intentional breathwork, visualization, and muscle relaxation change the color displayed by the device.
  • Mr. Ly examined how measures of anxiety, sleep quality, and chronic pain changed after participants used the instrument. Ten participants completed a study assessing anxiety. Eight participants were enrolled in a sleep study where they completed biofeedback sessions before bed for 2 weeks, and 15 participants performed biofeedback twice daily and reported their levels of anxiety and pain.


  • Anxiety scores decreased by about 22% on average (P < .001).
  • Seven of the eight participants in the sleep study had improved scores on the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, with an average improvement of nearly 30% (P < .05). Daytime dysfunction improved by 58% (P < .01).
  • In the chronic pain study, about 60% of the 350 biofeedback sessions led to reduced pain.


“These portable devices may aid lifestyle management by alleviating anxiety, chronic pain, and enhancing daytime energy,” Mr. Ly said. “The results support their integration into lifestyle medicine and integrative medicine.”


Mr. Ly presented the findings as a poster at Lifestyle Medicine 2023, which took place Oct. 29 to Nov. 1 in Denver and online.


The studies were open label and did not include control groups.


Mr. Ly is the founder of CalmStone, which markets a thermal biofeedback device. The research was supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.S. Army Research Office and Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies.

A version of this article first appeared on

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