Float Therapy For Arthritis
More than 60% of Canadians suffer from arthritis. While there is no cure for arthritis, many individuals trying to cope with joint pain can find both instant relief from physical discomfort and long-term positive psychological benefits in the float tank.
Let’s dive into the science behind arthritis, and how float therapy can help.
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis isn’t a single disease, but a way to refer to joint pain or joint disease—and there are more than 100 types of arthritis. Some kinds, like rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis, are caused by inflammation. The most common type of arthritis, osteoarthritis, occurs when the cartilage wears away and bone rubs against bone.
Regardless of its type, arthritis is almost always characterized by pain, swelling, and stiffness. Arthritic symptoms can become chronic, severely impacting quality of life.
How Can Floating Treat Arthritis?
Medication and surgery can be used to treat its symptoms and slow its progress, but there is no cure for arthritis. That’s why alternative treatments like floatation therapy are so important: time in the float tank can provide relief from pain, as well as enhance the positive effects of other pain management strategies for arthritis.
A limited number of studies have demonstrated that float therapy is indeed a promising treatment. This research has shown that patients suffering from both rheumatoid arthritis (1, 2) and osteoarthritis (3) have reported improved quality of life after undergoing floatation therapy sessions. Floating isn’t a cure, but it can make life better for individuals with arthritis.
The Weightlessness of Floating
The most immediate way floating can treat arthritis is through the unique experience of weightlessness. The float tank is filled with a super-saturated solution of Epsom salt and water heated to the exact temperature of the skin. In the tank, your body feels entirely weightless, and you float effortlessly. Your muscles can relax, and your joints will not experience the same kind of pressure that may cause pain and discomfort during daily life. This, in and of itself, can be a tremendous relief.
The float tank, in some ways, is a perfect combination of two of the best-known natural treatments for joint stiffness: heat and Espom salts! Many individuals suffering from arthritis find that a hot water bottle or compress can help alleviate arthritic stiffness, and Epsom salts are known to relieve joint pain.
Meditation, Arthritis, & Float Therapy
Some studies have shown that meditation can help individuals cope with the chronic pain associated with arthritis(5). While meditation doesn’t make pain disappear, it can help provide a better mental framework for dealing with pain and the stress that often comes with it.
Floatation therapy is a wonderful way to begin a meditation practice. In the tank, you’re completely removed from distraction and immersed in peace and quiet, which is why floating has been called “training wheels” for meditation. For newcomers to meditation, these training wheels can be immensely helpful!
Floating for Pain Management
Arthritis isn’t a simple disease that can only be treated by a pill or a procedure. As with many kinds of chronic pain, day-to-day management and coping methods are incredibly important. Floating can provide immediate relief from physical discomfort and pain, as well as help support long-term efforts to reduce stress and improve mental wellbeing.
- Floatation for the management of rheumatoid arthritis. Clifton Mereday, Craig Lehmann, Roderick A. Borrie. Restricted Environmental Stimulation, 1990.
- Effects of flotation REST on range of motion, grip strength, and pain in rheumatoid arthritics. John Turner Jr., Anna DeLeon, Cathy Gibson, Thomas Fine. Clinical and Experimental Restricted Environmental Stimulation, 1993.
- A pilot study to evaluate the effects of floatation spa treatment on patients with osteoarthritis. S. Hill, M.J.H. Eckett, C. Paterson, E.F. Harkness. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, December 1999.
- Effect of mindfulness-based stress reduction in rheumatoid arthritis patients. Elizabeth K. Pradhan, Mona Baumgarten, Patricia Langenberg, Barry Handwerger, Adele Kaplan Gilpin, Trish Magyari, Marc C. Hochberg, Brian M. Berman. Arthritis Care & Research, October 2007.