Pain relief is one of the most common reasons people make a practice of floating. With half of Americans reporting chronic pain, and a raging epidemic of opioid and painkiller abuse, it’s no surprise we are seeking alternatives to reliably reducing pain.
For pain management specifically, a practice of Floating offers the following benefits for those suffering a variety of pain conditions:
- Manages arthritis, back pain, sports injuries, and pregnancy discomforts
- Improves chronic pain conditions
- Relieves pain and emotional stress for fibromyalgia patients
- Creates an ideal environment for pain relief with weightlessness and lack of effort
- Floating provides natural traction for a wide range of spine-related injuries
There are three reasons floating combats chronic and acute pain: Salt, suspension and silence.
Magnesium Sulfate (aka Epsom Salts) is a natural anti-inflammatory and essential mineral of the human body. 80% of the American adult population has been found to be magnesium deficient, and 48% of adults fail to meet the minimal level of magnesium for basic functioning.. Low magnesium intakes and blood levels are associated with type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, elevated C-reactive protein, hypertension, atherosclerotic vascular disease, sudden cardiac death, osteoporosis, migraine headache, asthma, and colon cancer.
Managing magnesium intake is difficult as modern food consumption lacks the necessary magnesium formerly provided, and magnesium supplements are inefficient when attempted through the digestive process. Flotation, on the other hand, allows for cutaneous absorption, giving the body access to this essential mineral in a safe, effective and consistent manner.
The ability to float effortlessly provides a unique environment for relaxation and physical stress relief. With the exception of the Dead Sea and outer space, true suspension is impossible to attain otherwise. While floating suspended, the “zero gravity” effect allows your body to relax muscles, lengthen your spine, release pressure on joints and provide an opportunity to find a natural and healthy alignment. Allowing space for increased blood flow, combined with the natural anti-inflammatory effect of the magnesium can help relieve pain and counter reduced motor and sensory function related to spinal compression
The flotation environment isn’t quiet – it’s silent. The benefits come from the absence of external stimuli. The purpose of this absence is “trick” the mind into ceasing its effort to find threats and stressors to manage from the external world. When that happens, the sympathetic nervous system is put at ease, reducing or ceasing the fight-or-flight response. The fight-or-flight response is the cornerstone of the stress response, and many chronic pain sufferers are constantly in this state of stress as their body reacts to pain. Chronic stress increases pain intensity. Eliminating or coping with stress better can help decrease sensitivity to pain.
These claims are supported by numerous studies, including research done by Thomas H. Fine, associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry of the Medical College of Ohio, and Roderick A Borrie, Ph.D., clinical psychologist at South Oaks Hospital, Amityville, New York. They found that:
“[F]lotation REST can have an important role at several stages of the pain management process. By reducing both muscle tension and pain in a relatively short time and without effort on the part of the patient, flotation provides a dramatic demonstration of the benefits of relaxation. Relief is immediate and, although temporary, offers promise of further relief from REST and other relaxation-based strategies. Symptom reduction gained from flotation can increase a patient’s motivation and interest in the remainder of the therapy plan. Pain patients generally come into treatment feeling suspicious and skeptical, requiring a clear demonstration that they can be helped.”
In their research, they found extraordinary benefits for chronic pain patients. Most of the patients that utilized flotation REST suffered from chronic pain for longer than six months and floated from one to 16 sessions. Overall, they reported a reduction in pain that averaged 31.3%, with the highest level of relief in the upper back at 63.6%, and the lowest in the legs at 15.3%. This seems to be a “clear demonstration” that float tanks help with chronic pain.
A 2012 study also showed the profound benefits of float tanks. 81 volunteers with fibromyalgia were given three free float sessions in exchange for feedback on a questionnaire. Across the board, participants reported an immediate drop in pain and an increase in well-being. They also indicated a drop in pain over the course of the three sessions, so that their pain levels when they entered the tank were lower than they had been when they entered in the previous sessions. This result speaks to the long-term potential for pain reduction.