Float Your Pain Away

At FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers - Naperville, we have a fantastic group that meets the second Saturday of every month to learn about new tools and techniques that may help with battling chronic pain. I am always investigating new research based treatments that may benefit my patients and looking for practitioners outside of my practice to speak at our Chronic Pain Forum. That is what lead me to the Anicca (pronounced a-nee-cha) Float Club in May of this year.

The day I walked into the center was the day after the owners, Lindsay and Paul, signed on to be a part of a research study dealing with Fibromyalgia patients and floating. Since a large percentage of my physical therapy patients have Fibromyalgia, I was excited to hear what they had to say. I was so impressed with the tour that I signed up for a float the following week. I was not planning on entering the baths loaded with 1,000 lbs of Epsom salt, however, I realized that it would be hard to convince my patients to try a new treatment, which by some may be considered "alternative", if I had not tried it myself.

I made the appointment for the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, after a long, exhausting week of working on patients. I use an array of manual therapy techniques and although I don't have any musculoskeletal disorders, I do feel some muscle tightness and fatigue by the end of the week. So, I was quite interested to see if I would feel any different following an hour of sensory deprivation.

After signing off on the necessary paperwork and receiving a thorough orientation from the delightful Lindsay, I stepped into my own private wave room to begin my hour vacation, as it’s described on their website (www.floatnaperville.com). I molded the provided plugs snugly into my ears, took a tepid shower and stepped into the large (6ft x 5ft x 8ft) private pool with about a foot of 94 degree water loaded with the therapeutic magnesium salts. Immediately, I was so surprised how easy it was to float without any effort. In less than a minute the lights went out and I closed my eyes tightly, a little embarrassed to admit now, but I was scared for a few seconds. I missed the part of her instructions that told of the underwater switch which would provide a soft blue light should I not appreciate the total darkness.

I tried to settle my over active brain and relax. However, I couldn't. My mind kept wandering and I told myself I had to stop doing crazy things like this for my patients. After a few minutes, I really wanted to get out, "What time is it?", "How much longer do I have to be in here", "Is that water I feel in my ears", "Why can't I hear my heartbeat like I read I may”. All of these crazy thoughts kept invading my mind and I thought "I will never do this again". Well, I was wrong. Somewhere within that last half hour, I slipped into some type of meditative state. I know I wasn’t sleeping, but I am not really sure where my brain was, maybe the “theta state” the brain gets to when you are able to get into a deep meditation. The soft lights began to turn on and I stepped back into the warm shower to remove all of the salt. I felt surprisingly relaxed. All of the muscle tension had melted away and I re-entered the lobby to enjoy a cup of tea and share my experience with Lindsay.

She said everyone's experience is completely different. Some have visions, some sleep and some have incredible creative thoughts solving difficult personal struggles in the process. Although mine started out uncomfortable, I felt good enough to buy a new floater 3 pack and give it another try.

Soon, I was back with my husband, Gary. For over 20 years he has been a guinea pig for many of my new techniques. This time I baited him with the promise of a naked date night. Unfortunately for him, we were naked in separate rooms. Sidebar - disposable swimsuits are available for purchase on-line if you choose not to use your birthday suit. Gary had none of the reservations I had prior to my float, as he grew up around the water and floating was nothing new to him. He felt the most important tip was to find a comfortable place for your arms. Four positions were offered and when he finally raised his arms above his head and arched his back, he was out. The next thing he remembered was the lights were going on. The pain he felt in his neck and shoulders was gone and he slept better than usual that night. That may have been from all of the Magnesium in the water.

My second float was easier to settle into with the help of a small pool noodle that I used under my neck although I didn't get to the same "theta" state I had on my first float. This time my mind was concentrating on ways to get the word out to the community on floating and promote their business. Gary later playfully reprimanded me that I should be thinking about ways to promote our business!!

I then began bringing groups of patients and friends to float. One patient with significant soft tissue restrictions from a double mastectomy and plantar fasciitis enjoyed her first float so much she brought her 13 year old son back the next trip. I had no idea she had a deathly fear of water and claustrophobia, as she told me afterwards. She didn’t want her fears to interrupt the healing plan I had for her. I was shocked that she was able to do it with those extreme fears and truly found benefits from floating.

One word of caution would be for those that may have difficulty rising from a low position without help. I did have one 68 year old Fibromyalgia patient who had a total hip replacement several years prior who found it extremely difficult to get up after floating. I should have had her practice turning on all fours and try pushing up from there with the help of the grab bar. She is back in the clinic now working on her core and leg strength.

In summary, I am a fan of floating. I would do it every week if I had the time. I feel just as good as I do after an hour massage and the benefits for me last longer, plus it is not as expensive as a massage. I do sleep better, according to my Fitbit, on nights that I float. Lindsay gave me a great tip prior to my last float when she said, "When you try a new sport or activity you are not good at it right away, it takes practice, so don’t try so hard." I gave myself permission to be bad at meditating the last time and it worked, I had the most enjoyable float yet.

If you are interested in finding out more about how floating can help reduce pain, please plan on attending our next Chronic Pain Forum at Anicca Float Club on Saturday, September 12th at 10:00 AM. Register by calling (630) 369-1015 or by emailing mrachford@fyzical.com.