Flotation tanks merely do not hold water as a method of providing long-term relief from chronic pain, according to new research.
Research On Floatation Tanks, To Assess If It Helps Reduce Chronic Pain
Flotation restricted environmental stimulation therapy (REST) was used on nearly 100 people suffering from chronic pain, and the results were unfortunate, at least in the long run, according to German researchers.
The treatment entails floating inside a soundproof, lightless container filled with saltwater heated to body temperature.
The purpose is to increase relaxation, reduce stress, improve sleep quality, and, eventually, provide some short-term and long-term pain relief.
The team discovered that chronic pain relief remained unattainable after three weeks of REST therapy.
As per study co-author Jorge Manuel, floatation-REST, or simply floating, is the practice of lying belly-up in a tank filled with warm water so salty that people float.
He went on to say that REST was created in the 1970s but has only recently gained popularity.
Even after unverifiable pain relief assumptions, Manuel, who is a doctoral candidate in somatosensory and autonomic therapy research at the Institute for Neuroradiology, Hannover Medical School, Germany, believes that its performance has not been rigorously tested. He claims that REST has never been compared to a placebo control that is impossible to distinguish.
Between 2018 and 2020, the research team focused on 99 adults suffering from chronic pain to put REST to the test. For at least six months, all of the patients had been in pain. Chronic pain, as per the researchers, lasts at least three months and affects an estimated 20% of adults at some time in life.
Flotation tank therapy was given to one-third of the patients at random. Another third were given a placebo tank environment, which was the same floating tank but with reduced water buoyancy and far less sound and light control. The remaining third, known as the control group, were instructed to continue taking the pain medication they were taking at the time the research began.
Over nearly three weeks, the flotation tank groups had five sessions lasting 60 to 90 minutes each. One week after the last session and 3 and 6 months later, pain relief was reviewed.
Finally, both the REST and placebo tank participants showed significant short-term reductions in pain intensity and anxiety, as well as a significant decrease in the parts of their body affected by pain. However, when it came to long-term chronic pain relief, REST appeared to offer no significant advantage.
According to Manuel, the researchers discovered no long-term effects of floating on chronic pain, but they did find significant short-term improvements. These improvements were comparable in the placebo group, implying that sensory deprivation or seamless floating does not cause them as previously believed.
One possible reason for their findings is that their participants had high expectations of the treatment. He added that high expectations can cause the body to produce pain-relieving chemicals such as opioids.
Nonetheless, Manuel noted that some of the patients improved significantly more than others, implying that floating might be better suited for some people than others.
Given the discovery of short-term relief, he suggested that it might be beneficial to combine REST floating, a passive intervention, with more active interventions such as psychotherapy to achieve long-term benefits.
However, Manuel warned that larger trials are required to determine whether this type of combined intervention will be effective.
For the time being, according to spine surgeon Dr Park, the research’s main takeaway is that they do not have a good solution for people suffering from chronic pain.
Numerous patients are suffering from this and seek answers and therapy for their pain, according to Park, who is an associate professor of orthopedics at Oakland University’s William Beaumont School of Medicine, Rochester, Michigan. He was not involved in the research.
Park also said that somehow this sort of REST treatment might be beneficial to a small number of these patients. Nevertheless, because there are numerous causes of chronic pain, the challenge is determining the particular cause of a patient’s pain problem and then determining whether REST could be a solution for that particular situation, he explained.