Float Therapy for Fibromyalgia

Should you try float therapy for fibromyalgia? In my opinion, you should. There’s good evidence from the world of research to back that opinion up.

Fibromyalgia is still something of a medical mystery. In the past, doctors pressed firmly on 18 specific points on your body to see which ones produced pain. It wasn’t a very exact test, and according to the Mayo Clinic, it’s dated.

Fibromyalgia — Known for What It Is Not

These days, diagnosis of fibromyalgia begins with a battery of blood tests for signs of what you don’t have. There are three steps to a diagnosis. Do you have widespread pain in at least four of the body’s five general regions? Has that pain persisted for at least three months? Have the blood tests turned up any other explanation? Yes to the first to and no to the third gets you a diagnosis of fibromyalgia.

Where does fibromyalgia come from? The Arthritis Foundation offers the best explanation I could find. “Researchers think that people with certain genes are affected by a trigger (e.g., physical or emotional stress or an illness). Then, the pain signals sent through their central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) get turned up too high. That’s why people with fibromyalgia react more strongly to pressure, heat, sound or light than people without the condition.” The Arthritis Foundation studies fibromyalgia because rheumatoid arthritis sometimes seems to lead to it.

Sources of Relief

If you suffer from fibromyalgia, speculations about where it comes from matter less than how you get rid of it. You want relief from the pain it’s causing you. There are medications for treating the pain: pain relievers, antidepressants, and antiseizure drugs. People suffering from fibromyalgia may also get some relief, and even empowerment, from lifestyle changes. Some of the lifestyle factors that sufferers have reported success with include diet, yoga, acupuncture, physical therapy, and exercise. The Healthline site has a fairly comprehensive list of strategies.

In addition, there are a number of research projects on floating. But I want to make note of a particular one. This study first appeared (PDF) in 2012 at the Float Summit in Gothenburg, Sweden. Float centers in five countries recruited 81 sufferers of fibromyalgia. The centers provided them each with three float sessions. Participants completed questionnaires on their experience, particularly pain levels before and after. “Participants experienced reduced pain, how much they were bothered by pain, muscle tension, stress sadness and anxiety after each floatation experience. In addition, they experienced increased ease of movement, energy, feeling of well-being and relaxation from the intervention.”

Float Therapy for Fibromyalgia

In a presentation (video) of the study at the Portland Float Summit that same year, Rod Borrie explained why the researchers chose fibromyalgia for the study of flotation. “The symptoms of fibromyalgia match the benefits of flotation. Perfect match.” The causes of fibromyalgia might be uncertain, but everyone agrees it is associated with stress, depression, and anxiety — all of which diminish with floating. Borrie noted that he even saw one research paper that found a link between fibromyalgia and magnesium deficiency. Perhaps the epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) in the flotation water help to supplement users’ magnesium levels.

At Peak Recovery & Health Center, we doubled our floating capacity when we moved our facility. That means if you have fibromyalgia and want to test floating for yourself, it’s relatively easy to get an appointment. Book three sessions, like the participants in the 2012 study, and see if you don’t get similar results.

Image: “File:Fibromyalgia.jpg” by Hang Pham is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 — showing the 18 pain points once used to diagnose fibromyalgia.