Using flotation therapy for fibromyalgia

This article on flotation therapy for fibromyalgia was originally published on NationalPainReport.com. It is being republished here with permission from the editor. 

Using flotation therapy for fibromyalgia | Fed Up with FatigueEver 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!

Last month, 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.

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 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.)

Using flotation therapy for fibromyalgia | Fed Up with Fatigue

One of the three float rooms at East Coast Float Spa.

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. A couple of 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.

Now it’s your turn: Have you ever tried flotation therapy? Did it help your fibro pain? Please share in the comments!

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A few of my favorite things for relieving the pain and fatigue of fibromyalgia.


  1. Hillary says

    I went to my first float! They even had a Discount Program for Fibro sufferers. I live in Western NY. First float was free and the rest are 50% off ($33) with a signed note from my doctor. I felt good afterwards but my regular pain (neck, shoulders) returned by 5pm. The day after I felt worse–more tension/pain. Hard to say if that’s related to the float. I’m going to go back.

  2. Bernadine Grooms says

    Thank you for doing an article on float therapy! There is one about 45 minutes from my house, and I’ve been wanting to try it for a while but the cost has kept me from trying it. I know I always feel better when I’m in a pool of water, and everything I’ve read about float therapy and the different benefits it provides definitely makes me want to try it.

    • Donna Gregory/FedUpwithFatigue.com says

      Hey Bernadine,
      I had a reader who reminded me that Groupon often sells discount vouchers for float spas. If you have Groupon in your area, that might be a way to try it for a reduced cost.

  3. I’m so glad it helps so many of you! For me it did nothing and possibly made my pain worse. I was uncomfortable and in more pain than just floating in my epsom salt bath at home. There was something about the posture my body floats in that makes it counterproductive. My shoulders are pushed forward, which increases my pain. It was enjoyable but not worth more than maybe 5 bucks for the relaxation. I did feel the epsom, but I feel that in my bath too!
    Sooooo unfortunately for me it didn’t help.

  4. Hi, I read about floating and fibromyalgia 2-23 weeks ago and thought I give it a try. I found your blog in my search and when I read that you was NOT in pain during the session I must I admit I thought you were overstating a bit (sorry)… my daughter has been sick and yesterday she was admitted to hospital and on my way home I drove by the spa that offers floating so I stopped to ask a few questions and they had an opening so I got to try, and WOW!!! The last months has been awful for me and the time in the floating were so relaxing, painfree and all positivt things I can think of 🙂 When I got up I was relaxed and even felt that I had some energy!! They have an offer to new customers so I can try 3 times for the price of 2 so I´m going back on tuesday. Will probably be more than those 3 times if the results are similar to the first time. Maybe we should get paid for floating – we can work more, will be happier, more energetic and then nicer to our environment 🙂

    • Donna Gregory/FedUpwithFatigue.com says

      It really is incredible, isn’t it? I’m so glad you found it to be beneficial, too. My nearest float spa is an hour away. I so wish it was closer.

  5. Sandra says

    Yes. I have had 4 floats. My adult kids bought me one for my birthday 2 years ago. It was great. The 1st time I did not relax as much as you. My body and mind could not just let go. I did relax and the feeling of weightlessness was great. The next 3 floats that I bought were better. I bought it on groupon. I experienced much like you describe. The place I go has no light at all when you get in the tank. Last time I fell asleep. They also play soft music to let you know your float is over and dim lights come on that you can turn brighter as you like. It is very expensive and since I don’t work I can’t afford them at regular price. I did just get 3 more on groupon and will go once a month for the next 3 months.

    • Donna Gregory/FedUpwithFatigue.com says

      Groupon is a great resource for floating at a reduced price. When I use up my gift certificate, I am probably going to start using some of those groupon vouchers like you did.

  6. Camille Noonan says

    I am angry, disappointed, and so fed up with almost all of the Medical Community-I could scream. I have gone 40 years being misdiagnosed with everything but what I have. Mind you I have been to Thyroid Drs., Primary Drs. and Pain Drs. I had my blood drawn and examined more than twice a year. I have recently gone to a Functional MD and found out that I have Lyme Disease. This disease has caused me to have so many symptoms & weird symptoms-that I at times thought I may be losing my mind. The CDC has upped their numbers from 30,000 to 300,000 infected people in the US-on a yearly basis. This can be very serious problem-that the Medical Community has completely missed the boat . I urge all patients that are not getting better or are having many symptoms-please ask your Dr. to test for Lyme Disease (I am a now proponent of regular testing for this now). I am also urging the Medical folks to research for a cure. Their are people being misdiagnosed or one Physician (Dr. Neil Shine) even needing a heart transplant.

    • Donna Gregory/FedUpwithFatigue.com says

      Hi Camille, my story is similar to yours. Diagnosed w/ lots of different things over the years, including fibro, only to find out last summer that I have Lyme and several co-infections. You’re right…the medical community is pretty much ignorant of the commonality of Lyme and how it presents – thanks to the CDC, which is obviously covering up the epidemic. I also encourage testing – with a caveat. The standard testing used by Labcorp, Quest and similar mainstream labs is only 50-60% accurate. That means there’s a high likelihood that someone could test negative and still have Lyme. It happened twice to me! I was tested twice using the standard testing and both times came back negative. But there are better tests on the market. I would encourage anyone who thinks they might have been exposed to Lyme to look into iGenex testing, http://www.igenex.com. iGenex is the test that helped me to finally be diagnosed. I have more info on the best testing and how to get evaluated here: https://fedupwithfatigue.com/lyme-disease-and-fibromyalgia/

  7. michelina says

    This seems like a wonderful thing to try. A strange question I have for you. Whenever I am in warm water I get an intense need to urinate. This is weather or not I have done so prior to getting in a bath or pool. How would this be handled in that situation? I certainly cannot be the only person who has this issue.

    Thank you!!

    • Donna Gregory/FedUpwithFatigue.com says

      Before I was allowed to float, I had to sign an agreement w/ several clauses. One of them was that I would be fined if I urinated or defecated in the float pool. I guess if I was in that situation, I would have to get out of the pool and go to the restroom b/c the fine was really, really steep. 🙂

      • mymichelina says

        Thank you for your quick reply! I bought through Groupon for my husband and I. Looking forward to trying!

        • Donna Gregory/FedUpwithFatigue.com says

          Glad you were able to get a deal w/ Groupon. That’s a great way to try it and save money at the same time. Let me know how it goes!

  8. StevefromMA says

    I’m a few years younger but I hear you, can’t get rid of pain despite every med, gadget, physical exercise there is, now trying acupuncture, no luck so far. Interestingly, I also had severe mono, at 18, didn’t get FM until 30 years later, 30 years ago. Only the last four have been a very rough life changing experience, could not have made it this far with this level of pain. I get pretty sad reading all of our stories but I at least feel that others know what I’m going through. Try to get pleasure out of something.

  9. Kathleen Riley says

    I am so fed up w/fibro/CFS. I am 75 yrs young and started when I was 35 yrs old and landed in the hospital wth mono and a temp of 105 degrees that the nurses had a troublesome time getting it down. That was the beginning of a long illness. When I was 50 I suffered a second bout and was bedridden for a month. I went to Mayo Clinic, St Petersburg Hospital, and numerous Dr. My blood work was all great. I was so debilitated that I was sent to PT in a warm pool. I went 3 days a week for 6 months and it helped tremendously and I did rebound (not disease free) but lived a good life for a few years. I’m housebound now, depleted of energy, headaches, pain, and I’m terribly discouraged. At 76 I’m running out of time and would love to have a few good times. But it’s in God’s Hands so I just need to see what he has in store for me. I would love to hear from others suffering like myself. It’s a very lonely disease. I’m

    • Oh, I feel your pain! Literally! I too am SO fed up with FM. I think I have had it all my life. I could run like the wind, but could never hit a baseball as far as my sisters, and I tired easily. I am 73 and taking care of my husband, who is bedridden. Besides FM, I have chronic fatigue, diabetes, arthritis and other maladies. Some days I get so angry that I can do nothing for my pain and fatigue. I never took much pain meds because it usually made me more tired, but now the doctors won’t give pain meds for chronic pain. But, I would like some relief sometimes. I am so frustrated with life and the medical field for being so slow in being convinced that FM IS REAL and screws up your whole, and I mean, whole life!!!! I complained to my doctor once about being so tired and having to stay in bed 10 to l2 hours a night (that was when my husband was not yet bedridden) and his reply was that he wished HE could stay in bed that long! What a dolt! I am much worse now and do not know what to do.



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