WebMD distinguishes a dozen different kinds of pain, but I think most people are familiar with four:
1. Musculoskeletal pain. This is pain in the muscles, tendons, or bones, and it commonly results from trauma (e.g., a fall, a car accident, a fight). It can also be produced by overuse, bad posture, strain, repetitive movements, or prolonged immobilization. It usually occurs in the form of an ache, but it can also take the form of burning or twitching.
2. Nerve pain. Neuropathic pain is the result of damaged nerves. It usually feels like a burning or shooting sensation. It can have lots of different causes, from alcoholism to neuropathic disease to arthritis or diabetes.
3. Psychogenic pain. Psychogenic pain is associated with mental or emotional problems. When you are depressed or anxious, it can have the effect of intensifying or prolonging a smaller pain. It often occurs as headaches, stomach problems, or back pain. That it originates in (or is magnified by) mental or emotional problems doesn’t mean it is any less profound than any other pain.
4. Chronic pain. Chronic pain is pain that doesn’t turn off when it’s supposed to. Sometimes, even after the source of the pain is removed, the nerves will continue to fire and send signals that the brain interprets as pain. The lack of a source for the pain doesn’t make the sensation any less painful.
For most people, the standard response to pain is to take a pill. Pills can sometimes mask pain, which makes them a valuable part of any pain management strategy. With the pain masked, a sufferer might be able to relax, which breaks the pain-tension-pain cycle. But there are costs to pain pills, as the opioid crisis has taught us only too well.
Many people find that floatation rest can also break the cycle. Here is a blog post I wrote about how it is helping with fibromyalgia, which is characterized by widespread pain that is otherwise somewhat inexplicable. At the Laureate Institute for Brain Research, scientists study the neurobiology of floating, and they have found the floating experience dramatically reduces all stress indicators and reduces pain. A new mini-documentary following two fibromyalgia sufferers shows their experience of floating. The film is produced by EndPain, and you can find it on their site.
In the float pod, you float in an Epsom salt solution that is heated to just below body temperature. The salt water makes you remarkably buoyant, and the experience is like resting on a bed, except that you cannot feel the mattress beneath you. It’s like lying in zero gravity. You begin to lose track of where you end and the rest of the world begins, and your pain considerably lessens because it occupies a much smaller part of your attention. Some find that with their mind taken off the pain, it vanishes completely. The pain will likely return when the float session is over, but spending 45 minutes without it can break the pain-tension-pain cycle, which means it will be reduced.
If you’d like to see if floating can provide relief from your pain, a video on this page explains floating in more detail. Go here to book a float pod session at Peak Recovery & Health Center. If you’re in pain, it is 45 minutes that could change your life.