Ask Float Doctor with Elizabeth Heitzmann, LPC
DEAR FLOAT DOCTOR: My brother had chronic back issues and arthritis problems for decades. I hear about how much better he feels after his floats he’s doing. While he had chiropractors, pain pills, PT, you name it all, it was after he started floating when I began to see my old brother come back. He swears by it and wants me to float especially because I have fibromyalgia. I finally tried it when I visited him in Washington. I was super nervous about feeling claustrophobic. I kept breathing as they said I should. They advised to just “let everything go” like you said in your last article. I moved around in the tank and it was much roomier than I thought. I got antsy after what felt like 10 minutes. I just kept thinking about how much time might have passed. I couldn't shut off my brain. Then it felt like I noticed my pain more. That made the thoughts go again. I have to say, it was pretty amazing in that antigravity environment, but I was so worked up I had to get out early. 30 minutes later I see my brother strolling out to the lobby grinning from ear to ear. I want to feel like that. My fibromyalgia is so debilitating and makes me miserable. I have tried everything. I cry often. I might stay in bed all day and get nothing done. Then feel worse. It is a never ending battle. I think I might want to try again since reading your article about anxiety. If I can get half of the results of my brother... I want to Ask Float Doctor if it’s worth it to try again and if there’s a difference in the equipment that can make it better for me. —Pained And Scared
DEAR PAINED: Thank you for taking the time to share your story. My heart goes out to you.
You are not alone, though your pain is uniquely yours.
In those cases, a plethora of medications can be prescribed, with their own possible side effects. I don’t need to indulge that topic here, but we all know of the addictive potential as well as the lethal results in our society from pills, patches, injections and medications that can help, but can also be dangerous. Chronic pain has a nature of its own in a person. I know of this personally as I have neuropathy and struggled tremendously before I found floating. I know that pain often has predictable patterns but can also “flare up” unexpectedly causing varying degrees of disruption in a person’s relationships, quality of life, or ability to fulfill responsibilities. This struggle creates a very high risk for depression. I definitely encourage you to consider a therapist to help you untangle the feelings and what you really want for yourself for when you start to feel better.
I can also say that floating has helped me have far less flare-ups. If I over-do-it by say, lifting too much salt to reconstitute the tanks, I just get a float in soon and I feel back to normal very quickly. Floating is an amazing all-natural tool to reset our nervous system and flush out inflammation to promote enhanced healing. Float therapy has helped me manage pain to a whole new level than I could have ever managed before. I want you to learn that. It takes several times to get the shut down to reset your system, but it is absolutely worth it. Now that you have an idea of what to expect, I truly want to inspire you to try again so you can get some much needed relief from your fibro symptoms.
Recommendations to have a more successful float:
• First, don’t have any caffeine the day you plan to float.
• Think about floating as planning to take a nap. Prepare to be tired when you arrive by getting up earlier than usual and/or going to bed later the night before so increased fatigue can get you to that relaxed “shut down” state a little easier.
• Don’t worry about the time. We have everything handled for you. Our staff wants you to have the best float possible! For that to happen, you have to fully cast any worries aside and let us completely take care of you during your scheduled time with us..
• Try “crocodile breathing”: Take a deep inhale using your abdominal muscles to expand your lungs until "full". Hold for a count of two, then exhale slowly until feeling “empty” of air. Hold for a count of two. Inhale and repeat at a pace that is comfortable and calming, (don’t get dizzy). Feel the cool air pass into your nostrils. Practice this at home so when you float, you are ready. The moment you forget about time, space, and your body is when the magic begins to happen.
-Because of your pain condition, it is common to temporarily feel like your pain is more amplified since there is no other stimulation. You can become very aware of the pain your body is experiencing. If this happens, know that you are very close to the shut down and reset. Go with that anchored calm frequency your body is changing to. Acknowledge the pain, but don’t ride those feelings like a bronco. Connect to the breathing and focus on your presence. Imagine the pain is like a cloud of smoke you can move past. Believe that you are more than the pain that is happening. Your spirit is stronger than those misfiring nerves. Allow the hydrotherapy to create a "new normal" to increase your resilience of the pain.
There are many studies on float therapy providing amazing results for most pain conditions. Studies suggest people with fibromyalgia need about 7 sessions to
start to notice real lasting benefits. We see similar results in our clients and recommend the longer session whenever you are “treating” some condition. This is why we now offer a free week of unlimited floats with every membership so our clients can learn to shut down the mind and turn off that over-stimulated system.
Conditions like yours are like living with a fire alarm on all the time and no one even burned a pizza! Let floating turn the alarms off.
While each person's pain is unique, there are 3 very basic fundamentals of any kind of pain:
#1 Tissue Damage
#2 Activated Nerve Responses
Initially, floating mainly helps with #2 and #3, due to reducing both the nerve response (through surrendering to the sensory deprivation) and drawing out inflammation from areas that have injury or tissue damage. With the shutdown, the body can experience enhanced healing to address #1, which has compounding effects with more float practice.
When a person achieves the full relaxed state in a float session, all sensory nerves will cease firing. Activity will increase in the brain for a short period and this is likely what caused that “antsy” feeling you had. Just breathe through it and don’t indulge it. Disengage from anything that does not feel good. Knowing this information will definitely help for next time!
Our float center has three Float Lab Hydrotherapy cabins. There are general similarities with float equipment: they’re dark, have a ton of Epsom Salts, and have some type of cleaning process. Float Lab equipment meets the highest standards of sanitation of any commercial float tank on the market and is the only brand I know that provides an all-natural experience without any added harsh halogen chemicals or hydrogen peroxide in the solution. Providing 21 floats per day has really opened my eyes to the amazing recovery that a single session can do. Our clients inspire us every day, feeling better than when they came in. Thank you for your question, we look forward to helping you soon!! Hopefully your contribution will help others as well in their journey to healing. Check out our website for more information. There are some great videos to help you better understand floating at: www.floatdr.net. Find yourself at Float Doctor!