Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) can come about through impact (eg. during sports) or through experiencing blasts / explosives. There are different degrees of effect and the impact can vary significantly between individuals, but either way you don’t have to have lost consciousness in the process to have sustained an injury. The symptoms may not manifest straight away. They can be long term, and can include headaches, slurred speech, loss of co-ordination, loss of sleep, loss of memory and concentration, and slower thinking. TBIs and concussion can cause scarring and bruising on the brain, effectively obstructing certain neural pathways, and preventing the messages from getting through to allow the brain and body to function as normal. All of this can have a serious impact on the lives of the sufferers and their families.
Jeff Nicholls and Alex Oliver are retired Navy SEALS. They have experienced multiple concussions and dealt with the headaches, loss of sleep and hormonal disruption that followed. They now own Virginia High Performance, a performance training facility in Virginia, USA.
Jeff and Alex draw a link between high-performing athletes and people who have served in the Forces: not only are both groups at a higher than usual risk of sustaining head injuries, but they also have to cope with very high levels of stress. There has to be a limit to how much stress any individual can take; the body often gives warning signs, although we don’t always heed them.
So what does all this have to do with floatation? Jeff and Alex started doing floatation themselves for sports recovery, and it was from there that they discovered its potential for head injuries. They even had a device designed and made to enable testing in the salty water (not normally a friendly environment for electrical devices!). They have no doubt about the power of floatation to help people with head injuries.
Jeff and Alex worked with 200 people who had received head injuries in combat, of whom only 1 said he didn’t feel any positive benefit from floatation (he didn’t get anything negative from it either). Many of the people they’ve worked with were previously dependent on pain medication for such symptoms as debilitating headaches, but have since been able to come off it thanks to floatation.
Here are some of the ways they found floatation can help:
- Floating can be an ideal way to prepare the brain for accelerated learning – to give it the best chance, the brain needs good fuel, sleep, and a removal of distractions.
- Without the stresses of gravity or other sensory input, floatation can be used as a tool to improve mental focus, supporting healing and neurogenesis.
- Floatation improves circulation, bringing more blood to damaged tissues, aiding recovery from physical exertion and injury.
- By relaxing in the tank we can learn to relax elsewhere in our lives. It’s not always practical to float every time you want to chill out and let go of tensions, but once your body becomes familiar with letting go in the tank, it becomes easier to let go using other relaxation techniques. Breathing techniques can be particularly powerful when used in the float environment, and this can enhance your experiences with them in other situations. Or you can create routines and associations for relaxation, for example a particular essential oil or other smell may become associated with relaxation and can be a tool to use before bed. Floatation is an invaluable help with sleep – the greatest healer of all.
“The greatest performance-enhancing drug on the planet is sleep”
If you’d like to watch the whole 58 minute ‘Optimal Performance’ interview with Jeff and Alex, here it is:
Dr. David Berv is a Sports Chiropractor and float centre owner in the USA. You can also read his article on TBIs, the benefits to be gained from floating, and his optimism for the future of floatation as an part of an alternative treatment package for concussion and TBIs, here.