How I Floated My Fibromyalgia Pain Away

How I Floated My Fibromyalgia Pain Away

By Donna Gregory Burch

Ever wish your cares would just float away and disappear? Well, that’s not possible, but I may have found the next best thing: flotation therapy!

Earlier this week, I finally redeemed a Christmas gift certificate for a 90-minute flotation therapy session. Developed in the 1950s by a neuroscientist, flotation therapy (technically known as flotation REST – reduced environmental stimuli therapy) involves floating in an isolated water-filled tank. The water is heated to body temperature and contains so much Epsom salts (active ingredient: magnesium sulfate) that floating is effortless.

Donna Gregory Burch

I added the gift certificate to my Christmas wish list after I read about the benefits of flotation therapy for fibromyalgia and chronic pain. A 2012 study involving 81 fibromyalgia patients found that flotation therapy “provided significant temporary reductions in pain, muscle tension, stress, anxiety and sadness, as well as significant increases in relaxation, feelings of well-being, energy and ease of movement,” read the study. “There was also significant improvement in the quality of sleep.”

A larger research study called the Fibromyalgia Flotation Project is ongoing.

When I arrived at East Coast Float Spa in West Chester, Pennsylvania, I was shown a short video with instructions for before and during my float and given a brief tour of the facility. When I was researching flotation facilities in my region, I chose East Coast because they have float rooms instead of float tanks. (Float tanks are much smaller and may not be suitable for those who are claustrophobic.)

Each of East Coast’s three float rooms includes a small area to disrobe and a shower to be used before and after the float. After showering, I lowered myself into the dimly lit float pool and began my session. The pool is about the size of a king-size bed, and it contains around 12 inches of water saturated with 1,000 pounds of Epsom salts.

I have to admit there were a few moments when my anxiety kicked in during my float session. The pool area is dark except for a small blue light that reflects through the water. There’s no music or sound whatsoever. All I could hear was my own heartbeat as my ears sunk below the water. If you’re prone to a racing mind, like I am, being in the silence with nothing but your own thoughts for 90 minutes can be a little disconcerting, but the feelings of anxiousness ebbed and flowed, and eventually disappeared as my session progressed. At some point, I thought, “This must be what it feels like when you’re in your mother’s womb, and all you can hear is her heart beating.”

It required absolutely no effort to float, and for the first time in such a long, long time, I wasn’t in pain. Let me repeat that: I wasn’t in pain! My body was suspended as if there was no gravity, and there was nothing to do but just enjoy the warm water, the solitude, the peace. I wondered why did I wait so long to do this.

And then a bright overhead light clicked on to signal my session was over. (The only negative about my experience was that darn light! They should install red or gold light bulbs so it’s not so jarring.)

As I stood up from the pool, my body felt heavy as gravity took hold, and the pain returned – not as severe as it had been, but still a reminder of my life with chronic pain.

East Coast also offers an oxygen bar and zero-gravity massage chairs as add-on services. I tried both, but wasn’t a big fan of either. I will probably skip them on future visits.

But notice I mentioned “future visits.” Yes, there will definitely be future visits because my first float resulted in less pain and less stress. Days later as I write this, I’m still feeling the benefits. I can’t wait for my next session! I have a feeling my hubby’s going to be buying me flotation gift certificates for years to come.

If you’re interested in trying flotation therapy, click here to find a location near you.

Donna Gregory Burch was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2014 after several years of unexplained pain, fatigue and other symptoms. She was later diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease. Donna covers news, treatments, research and practical tips for living better with fibromyalgia and Lyme on her blog, FedUpwithFatigue.com. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter. Donna is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared online and in newspapers and magazines throughout Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania. She lives in Delaware with her husband and their many fur babies.

Subscribe to our blog via email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Authored by: Donna Gregory Burch

There are 29 comments for this article
  1. Jean Price at 10:29 am

    Leah…I’m really glad you’ve found something that does help you, PERSONALLY. It’s pretty obvious you’re really passionate about this…AND passionate about wanting others to know about it, too…AND to try it and start using it also. I’m guessing most people with pain really HAVE heard about kratom, though. And they also may know it’s not legal, in four states. However, even if it IS legal, if your doctor advises you against it, you may well run the risk of losing that avenue for care, also! So I hesitate to think it’s the very best plan for EVERYONE…since we all have such unique medical issues… and we are as different as our fingerprints!

    That’s probably why your remark about ” let the others do whatever they want” seemed to me to IMPLY “let them live in pain if they want”! And this didn’t come across TO ME as being very kind or caring at all. Just my opinion, that simply TELLING people about it should be enough! Because otherwise you border on telling people you know NOTHING ABOUT what’s good for us ALL! And if we then, for some reason don’t agree…we’re “at fault” of having our pain! I know you’ve been a strong advocate for this, and truly…that’s great. In your excitement about how it works for YOU, just please allow us our own ways, too…without any derision. Thanks.

  2. Leah at 2:03 am

    Kathy,

    Thank you so much for your comments. You understand. Physicians and the DEA don’t want people taking it because it would take away business from the pharmaceutical companies.

    Let’s live pain-free. The others can do whatever they want. Float away! Lol!

  3. Leah at 1:58 am

    That’s one video. You can remain in chronic pain. Not me! Jeremy, I showed you someone that did not know it all. He’s not in pain nor elderly. Why don’t you do your own research?
    I highly doubt that “floating” will ever be covered under insurance. Can’t even have acupuncture which is very beneficial for pain. No, the gov’t wants people on pharmaceuticals. I even saw commercials for the relief of constipation being on opioids. Who is on opioids? http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/12/04/kratom-latest-legal-plant-based-high.html

    Having said that: what is alcohol abuse? What is tobacco abuse? The DEA wants you to look at this like it’s a horrible drug. Watch your pharmaceutical commercials every day. All you hear about are the side effects that may cause DEATH. Well let me tell you something: Kratom does not cause death. Only for those that use narcotics in conjunction. For those who are not responsible users and don’t know how to use it. I suggest you go to the Kratom social group on Facebook for all the testimonials. Get the full picture. It’s not taking alcohol and pills, but alcohol is worse for you than Kratom. Why? Because it destroys your brain, liver, heart and can give you cancer and the list goes on. Kratom does not do that. All the skeptics can stay out there in pain. I’m happy and I am pain-free!

    I am a responsible user of Kratom!

  4. Jeremy J at 6:32 pm

    Jean, thanks for the feedback, and I am glad to be a part of the conversation. Leah, unfortunately as y’all know all too well, insurance companies will put off paying out on any service they can, so I don’t expect to see floating covered under insurance any time soon. I can say that there are a few float centers that have discount programs for folks dealing with chronic pain issues. Float Nashville is one that comes to mind. Based on the feedback I am seeing here it might be something we should consider at our center. We get more joy out of helping those with serious conditions compared to someone that just needs a little peace and quiet. I can say that many of our clients find that the benefits of floating last well past the hour they are in the tank, and I have heard up to a week.

  5. StevefromMA at 11:23 am

    Thanks Leah and Kathy, I appreciate any info people share on what has helped them with FM. Have heard of Kratom but not much. I am trying acupuncture for second time, with wonderful person as opposed to witch. Not cheap either but some good research which shows, like everything, works for some people.😕

  6. Kathy Malles-overcast at 9:13 am

    Leah, is absolutely correct in what she says! Kratom works wonders on pain and many many other issues, all without serious side effects, it is inexpensive, you can not overdose on it. You can take to large of a dose but the worst effect you will get from that is you will throw it back up, you can not overdose on it and die…ever! there is a lot of [edit] posted about kratom online that isn’t true because the CDC and the DEA and big pharma, don’t want you to take it. It takes money out of their pockets and there are many people who are addicted to opiates, heroin, and other drugs that have used kratom to get off of those drugs, that takes money away from them, also. So a person has to sift through the fake propaganda when researching kratom, going on any of the Facebook social site for kratom will help get you to the true and correct information about kratom, there a person can ask question and get straight true answers from people who’s lives have been saved by kratom. If you go talk to your Dr. or pain management Dr. or just about any medical person concerning kratom, you are not going to get the truth, because their heads have been filled with all the fake propaganda about kratom as well . Join any one of the FB groups on kratom, scoll it for a few days.weeks read the posts, ask any questions you want, the people there are very friendly and helpful, explain that you are new and just trying to learn the truth about kratom, everybody is super helpful. My son told me about kratom, I joined one of the sites, and scrolled it for like 2 weeks, reading posts asking questions, finding a good vendor, all before I ever tried it. Don’t just google a place to buy kratom online, because there are vendors who don’t sell you pure kratom, there are vendors who are rip offs. there are even vendors who will lace kratom with other substances to cause it to have a more euphoric results. Because those are the vendors who are selling to people who are looking for a “high” not looking for help with pain, anxiety, or depression. If you get on one of the social kratom groups, they have vendors there who have to be approved by the Admins of the site. They only sell 100% pure natural kratom, not laced with substances and only sell fresh approved kratom. We are only sharing this information, to help people, it sucks to have to live in Chronic pain, and depression, anxiety, and live on massive amounts of opiates just to get out of our beds. Kraton truly is a God send. There are a couple states that have made it illegal I can’t remember which 4 states they are, but that is all hyped up, also, again that is big pharma getting their way. If you truly hate living in pain, and you want to feel better, and would like to quit or reduce your use of pain meds, or if your Dr. had taken your pain meds away. Kratom can help you!!! And it isn’t that expensive. I highly suggest checking it out

  7. mindy at 1:38 pm

    Denise Bault, I didn’t need a doctor to tell me, after reading about it, that kratom was not something I would have the faintest interested in.



    Donna, good article as usual. Not for me but good for others.

  8. Jean Price at 1:29 pm

    Jeremy…how kind of you to offer your input here! Thanks! We don’t often receive the interest of others who don’t live with pain themselves, and especially those who will take the time to comment…even when there seems to be some negativity here! I suppose you can easily see how upset and fragile we all are over the current government interference with our health care and medication use!! (I have to say it DOES get really “crowded” in the exam rooms…with us and ALL of these others who are trying to dictate our care!!). Sadly there are many adjunct therapies like yours which can help people who live in pain, yet the financial end of it keeps many of them from taking advantage of treatments and procedures insurance doesn’t cover. (Maybe someday these benefit will be fully recognized, and they will know It saves them money in the long run!). Until then, the issues of having pain AND NOT BEING ABLE TO WORK decrease our financial health too. Thanks again for your comment, it’s always nice to get further info!!

  9. Leah at 1:24 pm

    To the float center operator:

    It is unfortunate that your type of service is not covered by insurance companies. I myself could never afford such a luxury. Also, I stated that it’s important for us to have a pain-free life and not just for half an hour or an hour. That’s why I’m begging people to take a look at Kratom. I’m not trying to sell anything. I’m just saying it has saved my life because I was hit by a retired policeman while bicycling and I have so many injuries and pain I was in deep clinical depression. I have been on antidepressants to no avail. Doctors do not treat chronic pain. After someone in a pain group on Facebook told me about Kratom I began taking it and noticed immediate relief. It’s not that expensive and it offers people in chronic pain a pain-free, anxiety free life and it allows us to sleep among many other beneficial health issues. Please come and join us on Facebook on “Kratom Social”. Look at the pin on the group and you will see specific people that check out vendors as closely as the FDA. Read what people say and ask for advice and also google “the Kratom Bible”. It’s not religion. It just has everything you ever need to know. Good luck with your business sir. I would say maybe 5% of people would use it because either they cannot afford it or it is very difficult for them to get in and out of cars and changed in and out of clothing.

  10. Jeremy J at 10:54 am

    Hello All,

    I am a float center operator and just wanted to speak for our community. Almost all float centers are small businesses owned by folks that want to help people, myself included. We never say that floating is a cure all, or even for everyone, but for some people it is life changing. I have a number of clients that suffer from fibro and chronic pain that come regularly. I agree that it can be pricey, but it is expensive to run this type of business, so unfortunately the cost can be prohibitive for some people. I can assure you there is no conspiracy for or against pain meds in the float community. What I can say is that there are a number of studies that show benefits for chronic pain sufferers and folks dealing with anxiety and depression. It is a very different experience from floating in a pool or ocean. The removal of all sensory input is key to the floating experience. I am happy to answer any questions about floating.

  11. Leah at 7:08 am

    Kathy, yes! You know what I’m talking about. It is so good for so many things. I have had depression, anxiety, pain and fatigue. Not with Kratom. I had to take OxyContin after a retired policeman hit me while I was bicycling. He almost killed me. Aside from numerous fractures I have herniated lower lumbar discs. I have worked out my entire life! This man took it away. After getting off OxyContin, which was difficult, I was in horrible pain and no doctor in the world living 4 miles from the CDC would give me even muscle relaxants for more than two weeks and I had spasms. I found Kratom in a pain group on Facebook. They recommended a company. I have never looked back. This leaf is amazing. Been around for centuries and no one in the pharmaceutical or medical industry wants to talk about it except to make it look bad. Why? Because they lose money. I am so glad I’m not the only one and that you are there trying to spread the word. There is an answer. I sleep better than ever even with my concussion because my concussion ruined my circadian rhythm. I was getting three or four hours of sleep a night. Now I sleep like a baby. No pain, no fatigue and I sleep well. No anxiety either. I’m getting off my medications and I’m fine. This Fall I plan to ride my bicycle again. Kratom is a miracle.

  12. Denise Bault at 7:07 am

    I watched the first video that was attached re: kratom. Was not overly impressed. The guy even said he didn’t know if it would work for pain. I have discussed kratom with my pain mgmt. doc and he said he could tell me horror stories about it. Divergent opinions, obviously.

  13. Leah at 4:44 am

    Mindy, well done! I agree with you totally. Getting in and out of the car for me just to get some fresh fruit or vegetables is very painful. Everything else is delivered. I can’t carry heavy items in and out of the car nor can I push a cart. No, we can’t be in a floating saltwater bath while we are shopping!

    Try Kratom. It works for me. The oldest botanicals in the world are the best. Something pharmaceutical companies don’t want you to know. It has saved my life because due to the pain fatigue and depression I was ready to have euthanasia. You could have that in the Netherlands.

    Watch this educational video on Kratom: https://youtu.be/Z5iSdQWIq20

  14. mindy at 11:06 pm

    I have had 7. But I have a really good spine surgeon.

    Spine surgery sucks, huh? Fibro patients also have a low HGH usually. Human growth hormone helps you recover from pain. In part, getting over hurting is even difficult.

    I used to love Rollercoaster rides. Now I don’t even like getting in the car for grocery
    shopping.

    I really do feel your pain.

  15. Kathy Malles-overcast at 10:13 pm

    Hey fellow kratomite, how r you doing? She is totally telling you the truth!!! Kratom has saved my life!!!..I still need some pain meds but reduced my usage of pain meds down to 1/3 of what I use to have to do!!!…Kratom is a God send!! not only have I reduced my pain meds, but I use to have to be on a whole lot od other meds, but Kratom works on many different things, I actually think diffrent people are finding new things it works on everyday. I know longer get charlie horse spasms in my feet,legs arms and hands, and so no longer need medication for spasms, such as mucsel relaxers, I have gerd and have been on medication for years, since starting kratom no longer need the medication either. Anxiety meds…no more…As I said kratom is a life saver!!!!

  16. mitchell wall at 8:30 pm

    I have had three back surgeries, so I am well aware of what constant pain does to a person.

  17. Leah at 4:32 pm

    Jillyn31: it works. Check out Facebook. Kratom social. We are there and we are together. It’s not that expensive for what you received. I promise you it works. It has changed lives forever. It’s good for depression, anxiety, pain and much more. Google the Kratom Bible. You will find more than you will believe. Pharmaceutical companies don’t want you to know about it.

  18. Leah at 4:30 pm

    Duration of salt water therapy: minimal. For those of us that need chronic pain relief for doing things such as normal daily routines:, impossible! First of all who is going to pay for it? For those of us that do not have the wealth and a maid to take care of things this is a temporary band-Aid. Who is providing this information? The government? Because they don’t want us to beg for opioids. I no longer see doctors because they cannot relieve my pain. I will tell you what does: Kratom. To h*ll with doctors and to h*ll with pharmaceutical companies. They make matters worse and I have found botanicals help me enormously. Why doesn’t anyone talk about alternatives to medicine and physicians that don’t do anything? They put you under a knife and you come out in more pain.

  19. Mindy at 2:42 pm

    Mitchell Wall, I am a patient and I can debate some with you. I can do so patiently and politely.

    I agree I would take any relief I got in anyway I could get it. Mostly. It is like an expense or cost vs benefit thing.

    However I temper that by saying that it needs to be significant enough to warrant the necessary action to get that relief.
    .
    To get dressed and drive across town to a float tank and change clothes again and float, rechange clothes and drive home for a few minutes or a day of less pain would not do it for me.

    I used to do gentle salt water pool exercises and I was exhausted by the time I got home. No less pain. Fibro is exhausting and that is probably because of the pain we live with.

    Twisting into and out of the car causes pain. Getting out the car and standing in line is painful. Changing clothes so many times is exhausting, and using a precious day for that is not worth it for me. I usually only schedule one outing a day because the pain is exhausting. I have shopping, cooking, house chores, gardening (where I get sunlight and exercise) takes up much of my time. I have a PCP, pain doctor, rhumy and a husband who needs my help and attention.

    I find my lightbox at home is helpful. But I don’t have the in and out of the car, nor waiting at the doctors, nor dressing, undressing getting in the light and redressing prior to going home.

  20. mitchell wall at 7:56 am

    There’s a difference between mental and physical. Floating in saltwater at the saturation level these flotation tanks have is going to relax your body, although the reduction in pain will not be the same, nor the duration, for everyone.
    Despite some people’s negative take on it, if the person in pain gets relief, that’s what matters. Anyone suffering from chronic pain will welcome the relief, no matter the amount or duration.

  21. Jillyn31 at 8:28 pm

    I’d briefly heard about this before & would love to try it when funds are better. I could definitely use this.

  22. Jean Price at 4:57 pm

    This sounds like an important adjunct therapy! I’m glad to hear of your experience with it! I imagine the gravity factor was a hard hit after being more or less weightless! That’s how I feel when I climb out of a oool…each step up making me realize I should have been an Astronaut or a deep sea diver!! I would think the Epson salts also take out some body impurities, although I do know a lady who had severe chemical burns from epson salts used as a foot soak…so I wonder if a trial run on a much smaller body part is suggested! Thanks for sharing your experience! By the way, I agree the end of session notice could be less traumatic!

    Leah…I don’t think this is propoganda! And for sure it’s not offered as a cure all OR to replace pain medication…since medication can be a primary therapy for many, often to EVEN ALLOW them to actually do these other treatments! Yet pain medication alone won’t give the full quality of life most of us seek! So we use various other treatments…along with medication. Not having any medication is agreeably a block to using other therapies! Yet an article telling of a personal experience is just that!! Sharing what helped a little…for one person! And perhaps allowing someone else to then have the inkling to try this too! Not to replace pain medications, but to help overall…a little! Pain treatment is usually about reducing little bits of pain with many therapies! So no propaganda here, in my opinion!!

  23. John S at 4:05 pm

    I always felt better after spending a few hours in the warm Atlantic Ocean- Just floating.

    All the weight – all the pressure was gone for those few hours. It all made sence and the pain was nearly gone until later that night. If I only lived near the beach, oh how nice.

    John S

  24. Donna Gregory Burch at 11:53 am

    @Leah, I can assure you that I am no fan of our federal government and their opioid policies. If you look at my previous articles on NationalPainReport.com, I’ve repeatedly openly criticized the feds for their attacks on the chronic pain community. I’m only sharing my experience in hopes that it helps others. It’s really not an either-or situation. You can use opioids and still utilize non-drug therapies, as well. Lots of us combine therapies, including myself.

  25. Kathy Malles-overcast at 11:14 am

    I’ve used these and they do help, i feel better with lower levels of pain for a couple days, but at $75 a pop, for a couple of days of relief can get very expensive. The first tank I visited had complete and total blackness! and it freaked me out, it made me feel claustrophobic, because I don’t know how big it was inside, but the blackness made it feel very small, and I ended up in a panic attack. I found another location, where the tank is a bib egg shell looking pod, and you can have complete darkness if you want, or you can have this small floatie type block that changes colors and produces a low lighting effect in the pod, I liked this. When the session is coming to an end a bright light didn’t come on, a low soft music starts playing, and slowly gets a little louder to gradually being you back to reality, I like this also. the pod thing was in it’s own private room, for disrobing, with it’s own private shower. It does help, but is and expensive way to go for relief. They use something like 1200 pounds of epsom salt, this is why you float effortlessly. nice experience

  26. Mindy at 9:25 am

    This is another type of meditation. Note she felt pain upon rising from the water.

    Anyway to meditate for 90 minutes will give you some relief but it is not practical to keep taking 90 minute breaks from life. Not driving to a tank, disrobing and dressing to come back home.

    If you keep repeating your 90 minutes your body will learn you are there to relax. But so will singing, breathing in a regular pattern, any meditation type thing.

  27. Denise Bault at 6:36 am

    I do basically the same thing in a warm salt water pool and I do it for free! I close my eyes and float for as long as I want. People are amazed when they see me do it. I don’t know why…anyone can learn to do it. It always makes me feel better…for a little while at least!

  28. StevefromMA at 6:31 am

    Thx for post. Was aware of studies and have debated hr trip to new float tank, just haven’t taken the plunge. Your experience would make me reconsider. Wouldn’t it be weird if we could control fibro pain just by going in our own float tanks every few days?

  29. Leah at 3:33 am

    Floated? This is gov’t propaganda. They don’t want you taking any opioids. I suppose they can float away pain during surgery too? Or after surgery?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *