From migraines to arthritis to backaches, pain can unfortunately come in all shapes and sizes. The good news is that flotation therapy offers relief to many kinds of pain: effortlessly floating with zero pressure on muscles and joints, supplemented by the stress reduction and enhanced sleep, can work wonders for relieving pain. Our frequent clients report these benefits of floating every day, but floating pain-relieving power is also supported by a sizable body of scientific research.
Floating & Stress-Related Pain
Many of us may perceive stress as a psychological state—interchangeable with worry, perhaps. But stress is more complex than simply being concerned about something going on in your life. Stress is also a physical experience, with direct ramifications in the body…usually painful ones.
When we’re stressed, our muscles tense. It’s simply a fact—on a biological level, we have evolved to experience stress as a response to a threat to our safety. When our brains receive these stress signals, they prepare our bodies for fight or flight by producing higher levels of hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. Those hormones set off a chain of responses, like tensing our muscles and quickening our heart rate. But when the cause of our stress isn’t something we have to outrun or battle (which is usually the case in modern times), and that stress doesn’t dissipate quickly, we’re left with tense, achy muscles and discomfort.
That’s where floating comes in. Physically, floating provides relief. Those achy muscles and tense joints can experience true relaxation in a float tank, enjoying zero pressure as you float effortlessly in highly concentrated salt water.
From a mental and emotional perspective, it’s been demonstrated time and again that floating relieves stress itself. Your mind can find a sense of peace and calm, and that effect lasts long after you’ve climbed out of the tank. That’s why scientific research(1) has found that flotation REST can lead to a significant decrease in stress-related pain: mind and body are treated at once, and can find both immediate physical relief and more long-lasting mental and emotional release.
Floating for Muscle Tension
Floating seems to be tailor-made for relieving pain from muscle tension! Thanks to the buoyancy of the Epsom salt solution used, individuals who suffer from tense muscles can find true relief in the float tank.
The scientific data backs up the many anecdotal claims we hear from our clients’ float reviews on a regular basis: in one study, participants with neck and back aches reported significantly reduced pain intensity after floating, as well as an increase in optimism and sleep quality(2).
Floating & Chronic Pain
Chronic pain disorders are notoriously difficult to treat because their causes can be impossible to pinpoint. However, promising research(3)—including the Fibromyalgia Float Project— is beginning to clearly demonstrate that floating can provide immense relief to fibromyalgia sufferers.
Other chronic pain conditions, such as endometriosis and chronic fatigue syndrome, haven’t been studied as intently. However, floatation therapy’s many benefits—muscle tension relief, stress reduction, and improved sleep(4)—correspond directly with many of the symptoms associated with many of these disorders.
Floating for Headaches
Migraine headaches and chronic headaches can interfere with a happy, healthy life…but research shows that floating can provide relief! In one study comparing different forms of treating chronic tension headaches, a combination of floatation REST and muscle relaxation techniques showed significantly higher levels of improvement than other treatments(5). Migraine sufferers specifically may benefit due to the potential for magnesium absorption in the float tank—the water is very high in magnesium thanks to its concentration of Epsom salt, and some research suggests magnesium is an essential treatment for migraine headaches(6).
Floating for Arthritis
Arthritic pain is often associated with the joints, and can be a huge barrier to enjoying many of life’s daily activities. While floating isn’t a cure for arthritis, it has been shown to reduce intensity of pain in osteoarthritis(7) and rheumatoid arthritis(8). Thanks to its weightless environment, floating can relieve pressure and tension on the joints, and provide immediate physical relief to arthritis sufferers.
- Eliciting the relaxation response with the help of flotation-rest (restricted environmental stimulation technique) in patients with stress-related ailments. Bood, Sven Å.; Sundequist, Ulf; Kjellgren, Anette; Norlander, Torsten; Nordström, Lenneart; Nordenström, Knut; Nordström, Gun. International Journal of Stress Management, May 2006.
- Effects of flotation-REST on muscle tension pain. Kjellgren A1, Sundequist U, Norlander T, Archer T. Pain Research Management, Winter 2001.
- The effects of floatation REST on the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Roderick Borrie, Tamara Russell, Stefan Schenider. Presented at Float Summit, 2012.
- The use of floatation rest in the treatment of persistent psychophysiological insomnia. UBC Retrospective Theses Digitization Project, 1989.
- REST for muscle contraction headaches: a comparison of two REST environments combined with progressive muscle relaxation training. Randy Rzewnick, Alistair B. C. Wallbaum, Howard Steele, Peter Suedfeld. Restricted Environmental Stimulation, 1990.
- Why all migraine patients should be treated with magnesium.Mauskop A1, Varughese J. Journal of Neural Transmission, May 2012.
- Effects of flotation REST on range of motion, grip strength and pain in rheumatoid arthritics. John TurnerJr., Anna DeLeon, Cathy Gibson, Thomas Fine. Clinical and Experimental Restricted Environmental Stimulation, January 2005.
- A pilot study to evaluate the effects of floatation spa treatment on patients with osteoarthritis S. Hill, M.J.H. Eckett, C. Paterson, E.F. Harkness. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, December 1999.