At Columbia's Journey Within Wellness Center, flotation tanks offer an alternative for pain relief

For Howard Magazine

Physical therapy wasn’t quite helping the back pain that Fort Meade resident Charles Lok, 34, was experiencing on a daily basis.

“The stretches helped temporarily but never completely got rid of the root of the pain,” says Lok.

Through an Internet search he found flotation therapy. He had never heard of it and thought it was time to get experimental with solutions to his pain.

Now, he’s going to the Journey Within Wellness Center in Columbia at least once a month for flotation sessions.

“I was apprehensive at first because you’re floating in the dark, but now I realize that’s all part of the experience. The desensitization of the water and the way that the floating helps your body align is just incredible,” says Lok.

Floating is a relatively new form of sensory deprivation therapy, and the science remains out on it. The Journey Within therapy tanks include 11 inches of skin-temperature water with more than 2,000 pounds of Epsom salt.

“The idea behind it is that you lose complete sense of your body, which provides relief in your joints,” says Farhan Qureshi, 33, owner of the center.

Qureshi first heard about flotation therapy when listening to a podcast almost a decade ago, but it wasn’t very popular in the United States just yet.

He first floated at a spa in Bethesda and says he immediately noticed a difference physically and mentally.

“The moment that you get out you’re in a totally different mood,” Qureshi says.

And it’s not just for those experiencing the average aches and pains. Qureshi says that flotation therapy can help those with chronic health issues — like fibromyalgia, ruptured discs and arthritis — as well, though there is no definitive research supporting this claim.

He says that flotation therapy at The Journey Within, which opened in June, first really got noticed on Groupon.

“People started giving us high ratings and buying therapy sessions on Groupon for themselves and others and it really took off,” Qureshi says.

The location made more than $30,000 in its first four months of business. Qureshi is now looking into expanding the business and hoping to build a franchise.

Flotation therapy sessions cost $70 for 60 minutes, $95 for 90 minutes and $110 for 120 minutes. The facility also offers floats for couples, which cost $110 for 60 minutes and $140 for 90 minutes. Buying a membership reduces the prices.

For Lok, who spends most of his time at work sitting at a computer, flotation therapy is the only thing that truly helps his pain subside. He now has increased his time in the salted water from an hour to 90 minutes.

“I find that an hour is just too short,” Lok says. “Before flotation therapy I couldn’t twist right and left without moving my entire body. Now, I’m so loose and limber that I’m back to regular activity. I look forward to the feeling when you step out of that tank,” he says.

The Journey Within is located at 8900 Columbia 100 Parkway, Columbia. 443-546-3383. journeywithin.com.

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