If you don’t know what a sensory deprivation tank is, don’t worry. You’re not alone.
A 60+ year old device, the sensory deprivation tank was first used in 1954 by a medical practitioner and neuropsychiatrist named John C. Lilly in an effort to examine the effects of stimulus on the human mind. Although first and primarily used for relaxation and meditation, there is some promising evidence that suggests that some of the symptoms of fibromyalgia could be treated or at least kept at bay by frequent sessions.
So what is a sensory deprivation tank like?
A small spherical or rectangular container with 10-12 inches of water that is heated up to 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (in order to simulate the average human body temperature), a sensory deprivation tank is pitch black and virtually soundproof. With the water heavily saturated with anywhere from 800-1200 pounds of medical-grade epsom salt in order to increase buoyancy and prevent chances of a person falling asleep and rolling over, the user is suspended in between the heated water and air in an effort to simulate weightlessness and achieve maximum relaxation. As the body relaxes and is unable to tell where their body ends and the water begins, the combination of the loss of sight and hearing begins to encourage a slowed heart rate, a decreased production of cortisol, the biochemical often associated with high stress levels, and the dilation of blood vessels, encouraging maximum blood flow.
What could this mean for those suffering from fibromyalgia?
With symptoms like an increased sensitivity to light, sound, and pain, the short-term benefits of sensory deprivation tanks are obvious. A pitch-black and soundproof room, designed to maximize comfort and blood-flow is almost the picture-perfect therapy for these symptoms that often chronically affect sufferers of fibromyalgia.
Other symptoms like insomnia, depression, and anxiety are more speculative in their beneficial claims but there are studies connecting the decrease of stress and the decrease of each of these things as well. Another interesting link is the theory that fibromyalgia could be closely linked with the body’s lack of proper levels of magnesium, an element that is incredibly prevalent in the same medical-grade epsom salt that is used in sensory deprivation tanks in order to increase buoyancy.
In conclusion, there is still much more study to be done in linking the effects of sensory deprivation tank therapy and fibromyalgia but there could be promising results on the horizon. More information can be found out about the Fibromyalgia Float Project here.