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Flotation Therapy

Flotation Therapy

If you are soothed by the element of water and find yourself at the beach or lake often, then you know the healing and soothing power of water. 

  Floatation therapy combines that power with the deeply relaxing properties of magnesium, and the calming capabilities of restricted environmental stimulation therapy (REST).

Float therapy for pain relief

 Floatation therapy helps the body recover from injury and pain-related illnesses, and recover from vigorous physical activity. Removing external stimuli, creating a sensory deprivation experience has the effect of all but eliminating the body’s internal stress response. Floating appears to take us out of a sympathetic fight or flight response (a chronic state of physiological being for many of us) into  “rest and repair” sympathetic nervous system.

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Short-term and chronic pain make restful sleep difficult. Pain’s interference with sleep and quality of life can occur at any age; it becomes more common as we grow older and accumulate injuries. 

And stress and pain frequently occur together, escalating one another in a debilitating cycle that’s particularly tough on sleep and our ability to feel and perform our best. That cycle of poor sleep, stress, and pain can also lead people to seek help from prescription sleep and pain medications, or to self-medication with alcohol, caffeine, and other drugs.

Studies have shown one of the most prominent benefits of floatation therapy is its ability to significantly decrease physical pain while improving sleep quality.. While we’re still relatively early in exploring the full spectrum of possible therapeutic benefits, scientific research has investigated float therapy in treating many different types of pain and pain conditions, with promising results.

Muscle tension and stress-related pain. It’s not surprising to me that many studies of floatation therapy find simultaneous relief from physical pain and psychological distress, at the same time they experience improvements to sleep as the three are all interconnected. Studies show that pain can be reduced by floatation therapy, and so can chronic, stress-related muscle pain and the depression and anxiety that accompanies it.

A growing body of research is finding that floatation therapy is effective in reducing muscle pain and the physical pain connected to psychological stress, including migraines, neck and back pain. Finding relief for chronic and intermittent physical pain and the psychological frustration goes a long way in aiding ones overall wellbeing. 

Fibromyalgia. Sleep troubles are a hallmark symptom and consequence of fibromyalgia. Widespread pain, and the tender points that people with fibromyalgia experience, make it difficult to relax, and to fall asleep and stay asleep. Recent research looked specifically at the effects of floatation therapy on fibromyalgia, in a study that spanned five countries.

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Participants with fibromyalgia underwent three float sessions, and scientists measured and assessed pain levels before and after each float. Patients experienced a significant drop in pain sensitivity and pain intensity after each float session—and the more sessions they completed the results continued to improve. They experienced significant improvements to muscle tension, flexibility, and reductions in stress, anxiety, and feelings of sadness—and these benefits also grew stronger with each session. At the same time, fibromyalgia patients experienced increased energy, relaxation and well-being that became more pronounced with each additional float.

Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis, in its many different forms, is almost always accompanied by sleep issues. Float therapy has been shown to benefit two of the most common types of arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder; joint pain derives from the immune system’s attack on its own tissues. Osteoarthritis is caused by wearing down of cartilage that protects the bone at the joints.

Both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis result in pain, stiffness, inflammation, and restriction on mobility. They also lead to chronic difficulty sleeping, and the daytime fatigue that comes from losing sleep and coping with ongoing pain. Studies show that floatation rest is effective in treating pain, increasing strength and range of motion in people with rheumatoid arthritis, and improving pain and function in osteoarthritis, while also addressing the stress and anxiety that accompanies the condition.

Exercise recovery. Some promising research suggests that flotation therapy is effective in helping the body heal and recover after exercise. This 2013 study found that a one-hour float session after vigorous exercise resulted in significant reductions to pain sensitivity, as well as significantly lower levels of blood lactate, a compound produced by the body during intense exercise.

Float therapy may help regular exercisers and recreational and professional athletes recover more quickly, while experiencing less pain. Exercise and sport are strongly influenced by sleep. Less pain means better rest, which translates to higher endurance, more power, speed, and strength, and a more consistent exercise routine.

The creative and cognitive benefits of floating

Enhanced physical performance isn’t the only kind of performance that may benefit from floatation therapy, according to research. Practitioners of floating routinely talk passionately about the powerful focusing effect that floating has on the mind, consciousness,  and the creative juices it unleashes.

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Scientific research suggests that the reduction in tension and stress, combined with increased energy levels, is likely behind the creativity boost that floaters experience. This 2011 study measured the effects of flotation therapy on jazz students.

The group spent four weeks in one-hour weekly float sessions. Compared to a control group, the floating group performed better in a blind-scoring of improvised jazz performances—and received higher grades. I’m particularly interested in seeing how floatation therapy affects individuals at the level of consciousness, awareness, and creativity. 

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