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{"id":556046876745,"title":"Float Therapy: Does it Actually Work?","created_at":"2021-12-13T11:32:18-05:00","body_html":"\u003cscript type=\"application\/ld+json\"\u003e\/\/ \u003c![CDATA[\n{\n \"@context\": \"https:\/\/schema.org\",\n \"@type\": \"Article\",\n \"headline\": \"Float Therapy: Does it Actually Work?\",\n \"keywords\": \"float therapy, float therapy benefits, float tank therapy, what is float therapy\",\n \"description\": \"Our MD reviews the medical research on flotation therapy to determine if it actually has proven benefits or if it's a waste of time and money. We also explore some research-backed alternatives which are much cheaper.\",\n \"url\": \"https:\/\/illuminatelabs.org\/blogs\/health\/float-therapy\",\n\"author\": {\n \"@type\": \"Person\",\n \"name\": \"Taylor Graber MD\",\n \"url\": \"https:\/\/illuminatelabs.org\/pages\/taylor-graber\",\n \"sameAs\": \"https:\/\/www.linkedin.com\/in\/taylor-j-graber-md-81351642\/\",\n \"jobTitle\": \"Content Partner\",\n \"knowsAbout\": \"medicine, health, anesthesiology, iv therapy, science, drugs, pharmaceutical, medical research, scientific research, medical journals, entrepreneurship, healthcare, orthopedic surgery, biomedical engineering\",\n \"alumniOf\": {\n \"@type\": \"EducationalOrganization\",\n \"name\": [\n \"University of California San Diego\",\n \"Arizona University\",\n \"University of Arizona College of Medicine\"\n ]\n },\n \"memberOf\": {\n \"@type\": \"Organization\",\n \"name\": \"Illuminate Labs\"\n }\n},\n\"contributor\": {\n \"@type\": \"Person\",\n \"name\": \"Calloway Cook\",\n \"url\": \"https:\/\/illuminatelabs.org\/pages\/calloway-cook\",\n \"sameAs\": \"https:\/\/www.linkedin.com\/in\/calloway-cook\/\",\n \"jobTitle\": \"President\",\n \"knowsAbout\": \"entrepreneurship, dietary supplements, herbal supplements, eCommerce, medical research\",\n \"alumniOf\": {\n \"@type\": \"EducationalOrganization\",\n \"name\": \"S.I. 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While different wellness centers offer different types of float therapy treatments, most of them involve sensory deprivation and a whole-body soak in water treated with Epsom salts.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eIn this article we’ll review the medical research on float therapy to determine if it actually has proven benefits, if it’s a waste of time and money, and if there are superior alternatives.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003ch2 style=\"text-align: center;\"\u003e\u003cb\u003eMedical Study Review\u003c\/b\u003e\u003c\/h2\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eSurprisingly, there are a decent number of preliminary studies on floatation therapy published in medical journals. \u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eA \u003c\/span\u003e\u003ca href=\"https:\/\/www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov\/pmc\/articles\/PMC5796691\/\"\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003e2018 study\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/a\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003e published in the PLOS ONE journal examined whether float therapy could reduce anxiety and depression in one single one-hour session. The study was funded by a non-profit organization so it was free of any funding bias.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eThe results were impressive. On average, float therapy significantly reduced anxiety and improved mood, with negligible side effects.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eA \u003c\/span\u003e\u003ca href=\"https:\/\/www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov\/pmc\/articles\/PMC4219027\/\"\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eclinical trial of longer duration\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/a\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003e found similar results: stress, depression and pain were significantly decreased in the float group, while general optimism and sleep quality improved. This study took place over the course of 7 weeks, and included 12 individual float sessions.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eA \u003c\/span\u003e\u003ca href=\"https:\/\/www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov\/pmc\/articles\/PMC4807536\/\"\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003ethird study\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/a\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003e tested the effectiveness of float therapy for a group of 25 patients diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). The float therapy group experienced a significant decrease in anxiety symptoms on average compared with a control group, and 37% of the float therapy participants experienced full remission of their anxiety. These are pretty remarkable results. \u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eThe study was funded by grants from a region in Sweden, and had no funding bias.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eOverall we can conclude from the medical research that float therapy is effective for reducing anxiety and depression to a clinically significant degree, at least in preliminary trials.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003ch2 style=\"text-align: center;\"\u003e\u003cb\u003eStudy Limitations\u003c\/b\u003e\u003c\/h2\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eDue to the nature of float therapy, it’s nearly impossible to set up a placebo-controlled trial testing its effectiveness. A placebo is a medical term for an inert substance given to one group (who aren’t aware of whether they’re receiving an active or inert substance), to ensure that any results from a medical trial aren’t just psychologically-induced. \u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eIf the results of a medical study show the intervention is more effective than placebo, it’s considered to be effective. Researchers may give one medical trial group a pain pill with active ingredients, and one trial group a pill without active ingredients. Because users won’t know which is which, this type of standard medical trial can be effectively placebo-controlled.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eSince float therapy is an immersive physical experience, there’s no way to “fake” it and control the placebo factor that the minds of the patients may be causing all of the beneficial effects (since patients may be \u003c\/span\u003e\u003ci\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eexpecting\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/i\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003e the therapy to work, they may experience positive mood changes for that reason alone rather than anything about the therapy causing those mood changes). This is a minor limitation of research on float therapy that makes the clinical results slightly weaker.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eIn the future we look forward to trials testing the effectiveness of float therapy against pharmaceutical medications, as this data would be stronger than the trials linked above.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003ch2 style=\"text-align: center;\"\u003e\u003cb\u003eIs Magnesium Responsible For The Benefits?\u003c\/b\u003e\u003c\/h2\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eRecall that float therapy includes patients resting for an hour in a bath containing significant amounts of Epsom salts. Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate, and when it’s dissolved into a bath it absorbs into the bloodstream through the skin. This effect \u003c\/span\u003e\u003ca href=\"https:\/\/www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov\/pmc\/articles\/PMC5579607\/\"\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eis proven\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/a\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003e in medical research.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eMagnesium deficiency is increasing throughout the developed world as documented in\u003c\/span\u003e\u003ca href=\"https:\/\/www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov\/pmc\/articles\/PMC5786912\/\"\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003e medical research\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/a\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003e, and if float therapy effectively treats magnesium deficiency, this alone may be responsible for all of the benefits of the therapy.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eMagnesium deficiency has been shown to cause anxiety and depression (as covered in the above-linked review), so its treatment may lead to the results seen in the float therapy studies.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eThis is an important consideration, because if magnesium supplementation alone is responsible for all or nearly all of the benefits, then patients could access these benefits far cheaper by using oral magnesium supplements or Epsom salts in bathwater.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eWe would be curious to see the results of a medical study comparing magnesium treatment alone versus float therapy.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003ch2 style=\"text-align: center;\"\u003e\u003cb\u003eFloat Therapy Cost\u003c\/b\u003e\u003c\/h2\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eOne of the downsides of float therapy is that it’s relatively expensive, and very rarely covered by medical insurance. Prices vary significantly based on location, but tend to range anywhere from $40 - $150 for one single session based on our research.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eThis means that one weekly float therapy session could end up costing over $5,000 annually. \u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eFloat therapy is also very hard to replicate in the home, because of the large space needed, the unique sensory deprivation setup and the floor cleaning required after every session.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eThe high cost makes research comparing float therapy with magnesium alone even more important, because magnesium supplementation is relatively inexpensive and can be covered by medical insurance if there’s a documented need.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eOral magnesium supplements often cost less than $30 for a month’s supply, and Epsom salts can be found even cheaper.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003ch2 style=\"text-align: center;\"\u003e\u003cb\u003eConclusion\u003c\/b\u003e\u003c\/h2\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eWe have been surprised by the early research indicating that float therapy may be an effective first-line treatment for anxiety and depression. Since it has little risk of side effects and is just a lifestyle modification, it may be worth considering for patients that can afford it.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eWe believe that a majority of the health benefits associated with float therapy may stem from its use of significant quantities of Epsom salts, and that these benefits may be able to be replicated far cheaper through magnesium supplementation with the oversight of a doctor.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eWe look forward to reviewing more research in the future that emerges on float therapy, and we hope to see it tested against pharmaceutical medications as well as magnesium supplementation, as these categories of medical trials would allow patients and researchers to determine the true value of the therapy.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e","blog_id":49281925193,"author":"Calloway Cook","user_id":26601750601,"published_at":"2021-12-17T00:30:00-05:00","updated_at":"2022-08-18T20:34:01-04:00","summary_html":"\u003cmeta charset=\"utf-8\"\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan\u003eWe review the medical research on flotation therapy to determine if it actually has proven benefits, if it’s a waste of time and money, and if there are superior alternatives.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e","template_suffix":"","handle":"float-therapy","tags":"_related:mental-health"}

Float Therapy: Does it Actually Work?

Float Therapy: Does it Actually Work?


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Read our Editorial Guidelines to learn more about what makes our site the premier resource for online health information.
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Read our Editorial Guidelines to learn more about what makes our site the premier resource for online health information.


Read our Editorial Guidelines to learn more about what makes our site the premier resource for online health information.

Float therapy is a relatively new wellness trend which claims to provide significant physical and mental health benefits. While different wellness centers offer different types of float therapy treatments, most of them involve sensory deprivation and a whole-body soak in water treated with Epsom salts.

In this article we’ll review the medical research on float therapy to determine if it actually has proven benefits, if it’s a waste of time and money, and if there are superior alternatives.

Medical Study Review

Surprisingly, there are a decent number of preliminary studies on floatation therapy published in medical journals. 

A 2018 study published in the PLOS ONE journal examined whether float therapy could reduce anxiety and depression in one single one-hour session. The study was funded by a non-profit organization so it was free of any funding bias.

The results were impressive. On average, float therapy significantly reduced anxiety and improved mood, with negligible side effects.

A clinical trial of longer duration found similar results: stress, depression and pain were significantly decreased in the float group, while general optimism and sleep quality improved. This study took place over the course of 7 weeks, and included 12 individual float sessions.

A third study tested the effectiveness of float therapy for a group of 25 patients diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). The float therapy group experienced a significant decrease in anxiety symptoms on average compared with a control group, and 37% of the float therapy participants experienced full remission of their anxiety. These are pretty remarkable results. 

The study was funded by grants from a region in Sweden, and had no funding bias.

Overall we can conclude from the medical research that float therapy is effective for reducing anxiety and depression to a clinically significant degree, at least in preliminary trials.

Study Limitations

Due to the nature of float therapy, it’s nearly impossible to set up a placebo-controlled trial testing its effectiveness. A placebo is a medical term for an inert substance given to one group (who aren’t aware of whether they’re receiving an active or inert substance), to ensure that any results from a medical trial aren’t just psychologically-induced. 

If the results of a medical study show the intervention is more effective than placebo, it’s considered to be effective. Researchers may give one medical trial group a pain pill with active ingredients, and one trial group a pill without active ingredients. Because users won’t know which is which, this type of standard medical trial can be effectively placebo-controlled.

Since float therapy is an immersive physical experience, there’s no way to “fake” it and control the placebo factor that the minds of the patients may be causing all of the beneficial effects (since patients may be expecting the therapy to work, they may experience positive mood changes for that reason alone rather than anything about the therapy causing those mood changes). This is a minor limitation of research on float therapy that makes the clinical results slightly weaker.

In the future we look forward to trials testing the effectiveness of float therapy against pharmaceutical medications, as this data would be stronger than the trials linked above.

Is Magnesium Responsible For The Benefits?

Recall that float therapy includes patients resting for an hour in a bath containing significant amounts of Epsom salts. Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate, and when it’s dissolved into a bath it absorbs into the bloodstream through the skin. This effect is proven in medical research.

Magnesium deficiency is increasing throughout the developed world as documented in medical research, and if float therapy effectively treats magnesium deficiency, this alone may be responsible for all of the benefits of the therapy.

Magnesium deficiency has been shown to cause anxiety and depression (as covered in the above-linked review), so its treatment may lead to the results seen in the float therapy studies.

This is an important consideration, because if magnesium supplementation alone is responsible for all or nearly all of the benefits, then patients could access these benefits far cheaper by using oral magnesium supplements or Epsom salts in bathwater.

We would be curious to see the results of a medical study comparing magnesium treatment alone versus float therapy.

Float Therapy Cost

One of the downsides of float therapy is that it’s relatively expensive, and very rarely covered by medical insurance. Prices vary significantly based on location, but tend to range anywhere from $40 - $150 for one single session based on our research.

This means that one weekly float therapy session could end up costing over $5,000 annually. 

Float therapy is also very hard to replicate in the home, because of the large space needed, the unique sensory deprivation setup and the floor cleaning required after every session.

The high cost makes research comparing float therapy with magnesium alone even more important, because magnesium supplementation is relatively inexpensive and can be covered by medical insurance if there’s a documented need.

Oral magnesium supplements often cost less than $30 for a month’s supply, and Epsom salts can be found even cheaper.

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Conclusion

We have been surprised by the early research indicating that float therapy may be an effective first-line treatment for anxiety and depression. Since it has little risk of side effects and is just a lifestyle modification, it may be worth considering for patients that can afford it.

We believe that a majority of the health benefits associated with float therapy may stem from its use of significant quantities of Epsom salts, and that these benefits may be able to be replicated far cheaper through magnesium supplementation with the oversight of a doctor.

We look forward to reviewing more research in the future that emerges on float therapy, and we hope to see it tested against pharmaceutical medications as well as magnesium supplementation, as these categories of medical trials would allow patients and researchers to determine the true value of the therapy.





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