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Relaxation in a flotation tank brings peace and quiet, increased well-being, and reduced pain

05.11.2003


A new dissertation shows that relaxation in a flotation tank can serve as an alternative form of treatment to reduce stress or relieve persistent pain, and it has no side-effects whatsoever.



In times like these, we are surrounded by stress and troubled by burn-out. Stress seems to retain its place as the greatest enemy to good health, well-being, and self-esteem. A major international field of research is now focusing on neurogenesis, that is, the generation of new nerve cells. This is against the background of our losing an estimated several thousand nerve cells per day. It has been known for the last few years that the formation of new nerve cells is constant. The latest findings about neurogenesis indicate that stress blocks the new formation of nerve cells and that relaxation, regular exercise, and an interesting environment increase and optimize the capacity for this. In most studies that have appeared, increased neurogenesis has been related to enhanced creative and intellectual performance.

To lie on your back and float in a tank filled with salt water induces extremely deep and pleasurable relaxation. It is dark and quiet in the tank, which enables maximum relaxation and well-being. To sink into deep relaxation, 45 minutes is a suitable length of time in the tank.


Patients with chronic muscle flexing pains in their neck who have been regularly treated with flotation-tank relaxation for three weeks experience a reduction in pain. After this treatment they also feel much happier and have less anxiety, alongside finding it easier to get to sleep at night. Blood samples taken before and after this period of treatment indicate that the count of stress-related hormones (MHPG) has declined. These studies have been carried out at the Human Performance Laboratory, Department of Psychology, Karlstad University.

People in pain are not the only ones who can benefit from floating in a tank. Anyone looking for an environment that can help reduce stress or lend a moment of pleasant relaxation will find this technique helpful. It has been shown that after treatment in the flotation tank, subjects experience greater creativity: the number of new and original thoughts increases after a session in the tank. It has also been experienced as beneficial to spend some time by oneself in peace and quiet, perhaps to think thoughts or experience feelings that are crowded out of stressful everyday consciousness. Many people experience that they attain a pleasant state between dreaming and waking or a state of daydreaming and fantasy.

Almost everyone who has tried floating in a tank thinks that it is pleasant and agreeable, and they want to do it again. Problems associated with the fear of feeling closed in are extremely slight. For those who might be concerned about this, there is the possibility of leaving a light on in the tank or of having the door to the tank remain partly or fully open during the session. The knowledge that you can get up and leave any time probably also helps create a feeling of security.

Taken altogether, this raises hopes that relaxation in a flotation tank can become an alternative form of treatment to reduce stress or alleviate chronic pain, with the help of a method that is safe and entirely without side-effects. If the flotation tank reduces stress, then this must have major consequences for the rejuvenation of nerve cells in those parts of the brain (hippocampus) that are primarily associated with health and intellectual capacity.

Author of dissertation:
Anette Kjellgren
phone: +46 709-63 16 20, +46 54-700 21 73 (office)
e-mail: Anette:Kjellgren@kau.se

Mrs Tina Zethraeus | alfa
Further information:
http://www.vr.se

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