Effects of flotation-restricted environmental stimulation technique on stress-related muscle pain: what makes the difference in therapy--attention-placebo or the relaxation response?

Pain Res Manag. 2005 Winter;10(4):201-9. doi: 10.1155/2005/547467.


Introduction: The purpose of the present study was to examine the potential effects of attention-placebo on flotation tank therapy. Flotation-restricted environmental stimulation technique is a method whereby an individual lies in a floating tank and all stimuli are reduced to a minimum.

Methods: Thirty-two patients were diagnosed as having stress-related muscular pain. In addition, 16 of the participants had received the diagnosis of burnout depression. The patients were treated with flotation-restricted environmental stimulation technique for six weeks. One-half of the patients were also given special attention for 12 weeks (high attention), while the remainder received attention for only six weeks (normal attention).

Results: The participants exhibited lowered blood pressure, reduced pain, anxiety, depression, stress and negative affectivity, as well as increased optimism, energy and positive affectivity. The results were largely unaffected by the degree of attention-placebo or diagnosis.

Conclusion: It was concluded that flotation therapy is an effective, noninvasive method for treating stress-related pain, and that the method is not more affected by placebo than by other methods currently used in pain treatment. The treatment of both burnout depression and pain related to muscle tension constitutes a major challenge for the patient as well as the care provider, an area in which great gains can be made if the treatment is effective. Flotation therapy may constitute an integral part of such treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attention / physiology
  • Depression / complications
  • Depression / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscles / physiopathology*
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Pain Management*
  • Placebo Effect
  • Relaxation / physiology
  • Relaxation / psychology
  • Relaxation Therapy*
  • Stress, Psychological / complications
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome