Opioids, Chronic Pain and Floatation Therapy

Pain. It can be consuming, frustrating, debilitating, distracting, yet always subjective to the individual experiencing it.  Chronic pain is of epidemic proportions and is a major cause of disability.  Until recently, pain was treated like a fifth vital sign. Blood pressure, pulse, respiration, temperature, and…pain?  

Problems arise in treating pain when there is no objective measure measurement. There is no thermometer to gauge how you are personally sensing that disc herniation, rib fracture, headache or inflammatory bowel disease.  Therein lies the undercurrent of how and why medical methods of treating chronic pain have both changed over the years and led to an opioid crisis.  

This is only complicated by the pharmaceutical industry who keeps pushing opioids and simultaneously disguising the addictive nature of them. For example, in February 2018, the associated press cited that Purdue Pharmaceutical will stop “actively marketing” Oxycontin to physicians. In March 2018, The Washington Post noted that the city of Alexandria, Virginia is suing sellers of prescription painkillers stating that “drug addiction has killed scores of residents and overwhelmed city services”. 

The opioid crisis has forced pain management professionals to consider alternative methods to manage or co-manage serial mind and body implications of chronic pain.   The McShin Foundation in Richmond, Virginia is one shining example of organizations seeking to find collaborative and effective ways to manage pain and recovery from opioid addiction.  Their programs view addiction, recovery and non-narcotic pain treatment with an equation involving a multitude of mind and body therapies.  

Floatation therapy is emerging as a valid, effective and adjunctive means for managing chronic pain in lieu of medication.  Due to the profound effects that floatation therapy has on decreasing inflammation, stress and anxiety, while increasing quality of sleep and musculoskeletal recovery, it is positively enabling for those suffering the mind and body effects of chronic pain.

As a result of positive outcomes in a series of recent studies at The Float Zone in Richmond, VA, a case study was conducted with a recovering opioid user as to the effects of floatation therapy and chronic pain.  The objective of this case study was to provide a concrete example of the positive effects of floatation therapy upon specific physical and emotional aspects related to an individual recovering from opiate addiction and who has been in recovery for 18 months.    

Click to read the Case Study or contact the author, Dr. David Berv, for more information on floating and chronic pain.

To learn more about other pain case studies, visit our Case Study results page.  

This article originally appeared on myfloatzone.com and was written by Dave Berv.

Float Therapy For Fibromyalgia Can Help Relieve Pain And Stress

Fibromyalgia is a pain condition that affects between 2 and 10% of the population in the U.S. It generally affects more women than men at a ratio of 9:1. One way to treat not only the fibromyalgia pain, but also the stress and anxiety that may accompany it is trying float tanks for fibromyalgia.

How do float tanks for fibromyalgia work?

Flotation REST (reduced environmental stimuli therapy) was developed in the 1950s by John C. Lilly, M.D. It uses a water-filled tank that is approximately the size of a bed and heated to skin temperature. The water is saturated with Epsom salts so that the patient can float without any effort.

Patients remove their clothes, enter the tank, turn off the lights, and relax. The idea is that this sensation of zero stimuli will help a person focus inward, eliminating distractions and calming the mind and body.

The Fibromyalgia Floatation Project (FFP) believes that spending an hour in a float tank will help sufferers reduce pain significantly. The project selected fibromyalgia as the condition for their case studies because the symptoms of fibromyalgia match the potential benefits of REST.

Benefits of float tanks for fibromyalgia

The benefits of float tanks for fibromyalgia have been studied for several decades. They have been shown to include the following.

Relief of stress

Thomas H. Fine, an associate professor in the department of psychiatry of the Medical College of Ohio and Roderick A. Borrie, a clinical psychologist at South Oaks Hospital in Amityville, New York, co-authored a seminal article examining the clinical effects of REST on the stress response.

They identified blood pressure, cortisol production, and muscle activity as key indicators of stress in the body. Their findings indicated that cortisol production decreased during floatation REST sessions and that:

“[There exists] the possibility of a resetting of the regulatory mechanism of cortisol across sessions.  Furthermore, cortisol, which has received more attention than the other hormones [in its role as an indicator of stress], and blood pressure, have been shown to maintain the REST effect after cessation of repeated REST sessions (Turner & Fine, 1983). This phenomenon suggests that the REST effect may be more than a simple, immediately reversible response.”

Alleviation of depression and anxiety

Float tanks for fibromyalgia have been shown to alleviate depression and anxiety with the mood elevation effects of deep relaxation. Fine and Borrie found that the effects were most pronounced when flotation REST was utilized in conjunction with other forms of counseling.

They caution, however, that severely depressed patients may need close monitoring due to the sometimes obsessive nature of thinking that can occur in the flotation tank.

Promotion of better, more restful sleep

Relaxation alone equals better, more restful sleep, and the deep relaxation of float tanks for fibromyalgia can help. Many fibromyalgia patients also suffer from restless leg syndrome, so getting a good night’s sleep can be difficult.

Since fatigue can exacerbate symptoms of fibromyalgia, the sleep-promoting deep relaxation can be a vital benefit of flotation REST.

Pain relief

Perhaps one of the most important benefits of float tanks for fibromyalgia is relief from pain. Fine and Borrie noted that:

“Flotation 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.”

Many patients who have dealt with fibromyalgia for a long period of time give up hope for new treatments. When they realize that float tanks can help manage pain, their mental outlook may change and they may be more confident in their treatment plan.

Relief of muscle tightness

The stiffness and muscle tightness of fibromyalgia can be addressed by float tanks. A small 2012 study found that pain due to tightness of muscles was decreased significantly after just three sessions in the float tanks.

The pain-relieving effects lasted for a significant period after the treatment, which also helped to alleviate mood and make the study participants more hopeful. This increased optimism translates into better opportunities for successful treatment all around.

Corrects magnesium deficiency

Magnesium is essential to over 300 functions in the body, but people in the U.S. are chronically lacking in this important mineral. Transdermal supplementation of magnesium is the most effective delivery system. Fibromyalgia sufferers may have a magnesium deficiency that actually causes or contributes to their pain.

The magnesium solution in fibromyalgia float tanks can be absorbed through the skin. This helps to alleviate that deficiency without taking additional supplements. This can be a benefit to patients who have difficulty taking pills or who simply don’t want to take anything else.

Performance improvements

While not directly related to fibromyalgia, float tanks can also have some performance benefits.

Researchers Oshin Vartanian of the University of Toronto and Peter Suedfeld of the University of British Columbia found that musicians who floated in the tank for one hour per week for four weeks showed better technical ability at the end of the research. The researchers compared two-minute recordings before and after from the study participants and the control group. They found “a significant difference between the treatment and comparison groups on technical ability, but not on any other dimension.”

When float tanks are combined with positive imagery, athletic performance also improved without any other adjustments to amount or duration of practice. Simply floating in the tank and allowing the body and mind to fully relax seems to be what athletes need to recharge and regroup.

Float tank testimonials from fibromyalgia patients

The Fibromyalgia Flotation Project was designed for patients and interested medical professionals to test the efficacy of flotation REST treatments for fibromyalgia specifically. Two patients in particular are highlighted on their website.

Tina suffered from pain and bruising as a lasting reminder of a car accident in 1998 but couldn’t figure out why she was still in so much pain. Doctors attempted to control her pain with prescription opioids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), with disastrous results. After nearly overdosing, she finally tried flotation REST while visiting friends.

Tina describes her first experience in the tank like this:

“[It was] like stepping into a warmth that was hard to describe. I felt held, secure, safe, enveloped and surrounded by this wonderful water that was so good to feel against my painful body. I had immediate pain relief and no breakthrough pain for 17 hours after my first float.”

After seven floats, Tina puts her pain level at just 10% of what it used to be.

Float tanks improve overall quality of life

Brigitta’s fibromyalgia was not traced to any one particular incident, but the pain and dizziness made it difficult for her to really function effectively. She was unable to take pain medications because of their side effects, so she utilized acupuncture, warm baths, and exercise.

She was recruited by the Fibromyalgia Flotation Project at 70 years old and had this to say about the results:

“Flotation has made my life considerably better. I feel that it’s easier for me to take each day as it comes, which means that life gets easier. I feel much more positive and happy, and many of my friends confirm that.”

Frequently asked questions about float tanks

For first-time floaters, float tanks may be intimidating. The space is enclosed, and the act of floating is a foreign one. Some frequently asked questions about float tanks for fibromyalgia include the following.

What should I expect during my session?

People who utilize float tanks are often referred to as “floaters.” Floaters shower before entering the tank, either floating unclothed or in a bathing suit. Float sessions can last anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes.

First-time floaters may need some time to adjust to the environment of the tank, so a session of at least one hour is recommended.

Are fibromyalgia float tanks hygienic?

The water in the float tanks is saturated with magnesium sulfate nearly to the point of crystallization, just like the Dead Sea. And, just like the Dead Sea, this is not an environment in which bacteria can live.

In addition, float tanks come with a filter system that automatically filters the water after each session. Finally, floaters are asked to shower before they enter the tank, further minimizing the amount of bacteria or dirt they introduce to the tank.

Is there anyone who shouldn’t float?

Because a float tank is small and enclosed, floating may be difficult for people with claustrophobia. There are float tanks that have small windows that may help with this, but for some that might not be enough room. Those who suffer from anxiety may also find the initial sessions difficult.

How many sessions are required?

There is no perfect number of sessions, but for first-time floaters it is best to schedule a series. The sensations experienced in the tank (e.g., deep relaxation, minimal sensory input, weightlessness) may be strange and take some getting used to.

Reset Wellness recommends starting with a series of three, offering a reduced price for first-time floaters. Ultimately it is up to the floater to decide what works best for them.

This article originally appeared on paindoctor.com

The Power of Floating

Imagine being a 24-year-old man, naked and floating in a pod, inducing complete sensory deprivation and being immersed in what I can only describe as adult sized womb. Sound terrifying? Well, today I did just that, but alas, it was not scary in the slightest and instead it ending up being both relaxing and transformative.

To my surprise, I learnt that floatation therapy has been around for around 60 years. It is yet however, to become mainstream. I for one, knew nothing about it.

A few weeks back, I was browsing the web looking for something interesting and new that a friend and I could try out. This is when I came across ‘Float Works’ in Vauxhall, London. Intrigued, I booked us one ‘float’.

I arrived at 9 am and was overcome by a sense of tranquillity. The receptionist positively oozed zen, making my friend and I feel at ease; this was particularly reassuring when trying something so new and unusual.

He showed each of us to our private room where a large white pod filled with salt water greeted me. He explained its features and left us to shower and hop in. Normally I would be nervous, but the staff were so friendly and positive that any residual nerves evaporated.

I took off my clothes and lay down in the water. I felt the tension in my body melt away. Turning the pod’s lights off, I was lost in complete darkness, left to focus on my own thoughts for a full hour.

After the fifteen minutes of quiet music (to ‘ease you in’) I lost any sense of time. I began to fade in and out of active thought, managing in the main to clear my mind. The water, being perfect room temperature, meant that I wasn’t able to tell which parts of me were in the water and which were out. I focused on my breath and could hear only my heartbeat; I had completely succumbed to the pod.

The hour was up in what felt like minutes. Before entering, I was convinced that this whole process might drag on, but instead I was shocked at how quickly the time flew!

After the float, I felt happier, lighter and rejuvenated. I made my way up to the ‘relaxation room’ and poured myself a complementary herbal tea, and pondered the immense and positive impact of the float. I am a massage addict, but let me tell you, this float session was more wellness inducing than any massage I have ever received. It was special absolutely worth the £50 price tag.

I’m giving this 5/5 on the happiness scale.

This article originally appeared on huffingtonpost and was written by Nader Dehdasht


Balanced Health Care: Float Therapy & Massage

Float therapy is a form of non-touch therapy for relieving stress and it's symptoms in the mind and body. It's for people of all ages and a range of issues and purposes. A float tank is a large, covered bath-tub-like container filled with a water solution heated to skin temperature and is well saturated with approx. 800lbs of Epsom salts, hence why it feels silky and warm when you lie in it. You will simply step in, lay down and relax.

We recommend you try 3 floats within 10 - 14 days to understand how it feels and how it works. By consistently relaxing you help calm the mind and body, which in turn restores the body's own healing systems, allowing stress hormone levels to drop, enabling better repair of injuries, normalizes metabolism, improves circulation and cellular transport and absorption of nutrients, and reduces soft tissue and joint pain, all from relaxing.

With your first float you will familiarize yourself with the environment, salt water and buoyancy. You will also experience deep relaxation and probably sleep quite well that night.

The second float is when you will experience an even deeper sense of relaxation where you enjoy peace and quiet, and perhaps notice your aches and pains diminish or disappear completely. 

During your third float and having learned previously from the environment and float you will feel significant benefits of deep relaxation and can release yourself in to a calm state easily and sooner than before.

Some known benefits of regular floating:

  • reduces anxiety, blood pressure (anxiety related), and inflammation (cortisol levels drop)
  • excellent strategy for pain management and treatment of arthritic pain, joint pain, neck & back pain, Lactic acidosis, Sciatic pain, tension/migraines/headaches, PMS and whiplash.
  • helps resolve PTSD, insomnia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, MS (Multiple Sclerosis).
  • improves circulation, tissue repair and mobility.
  • prepares to the body for and relaxes it after physical activity or strain, like cycling, running, hiking, golfing, gardening, etc.
  • helps to improve coping skills by physiologically clearing the body of stress symptoms.
  • increases resistance to stress.

If you have been on your feet all day, Float Therapy reverses gravity's effects on your body. 

The buoyancy produced by the salt water solution helps relieve, release and expand joints to their normal spacing and position. The heated temperature of the water soothes soreness and helps expand blood vessels, improving circulation all over the body.

Enjoying one hour of Float Therapy is equivalent to a restful 3-4 hour sleep. Floating helps restore normal sleeping patterns.

The pressure from pregnancy is resolved and released during a float and is perfect for women in their 3rd Trimester for relieving heavy back and hip pain and reducing inflammation.

Float Therapy along with Massage Therapy offers a balance for resolving patterns of pain, relaxing tensions away, restoring health and improving coping skills in mind and body. Combining the two therapies is complete health care. 

Sports Massage and Float Therapy - Rest / Recovery, Pre / Post Training

Wear and tear and the inability to heal (well or quickly) is frustrating and creeps up if neglected. It holds you back and can cause debilitating problems for the future. These are quickly resolved with combining massage and floating.

Float Therapy helps accelerate restoration of tissue and recovery between training sessions, helping you build muscle and repair injuries. 

Relaxed athletes have better performance and mental stamina to keep up with the demands.

With regular floating, Float Therapy helps athletes overcome exhaustion, fatigue, poor sleep, fogginess, anxiety, depression and weak immune systems.

Rehabilitative Massage and Float Therapy - Restore strength and balance.

Chronic pain, old injuries, poor posture, accidents, lifestyle (changes), mental stress, anxiety, depression, PTSD all play a roll on how our body feels, endures stress and moves in it's environment.

Massage reduces tensions locked in muscles and helps realign joints and fascia to improve nerve communication, mobility, strength, and in turn increases flexibility, range of motion and balance.

By regularly floating you will restore your sense of well being, reduce pain and nurture your body to repair itself between massage appointments. Float Therapy will reduce stress hormone levels 

If you find yourself struggling with aches and pains that are a result of old physical/mental traumas, misalignment, injury or mental stress, by giving your body the opportunity to regularly relax will restore it's ability to heal itself better and improve your coping skills.

Floatation Tanks and Hygiene

Water is circulated by filtration pump through a 20 micron filter between each Float Therapy appointment and further sanitized with ozone, UV light, a safe, non-toxic pool-grade oxidizing solution, Peroxysan, and enzymes. Water quality checks are performed regularly.

Currently available at our clinic is a special maintenance package:

5 Massages + 5 Floats for $495 - regularly $800. This package is perfect for a year long maintenance plan. Float Therapy and Massage appointments can be made back to back or spread out. To purchase your package, follow this link to our online store.