KEARNEY — Last year, Matthew O’Neill was on tour with Korn — one of the most well-known heavy metal bands in the world — as their physical therapist. However, though the trip should have been the time of his life, he was exhausted and in pain.
“While tour(ing) with one of the top bands in the world sounds like all fun and games, it was actually quite grueling with constant noise, movement and being away from home for three and a half months,” O’Neill said in an email to the Hub.
During that time, the band stopped in Toronto and stayed at the nicest hotel O’Neill said he’d ever been in.
“But I wasn’t enjoying it. I was mentally and physically exhausted. My spine hurt from sleeping on a moving bus and as a physical therapist, I knew that even I couldn’t fix my own pain.”
Fed up with the discomfort, he decided to try out something he’d seen in a movie once: flotation therapy.
“I did it for 60 minutes, fell asleep, and when I woke up my pain was gone and I felt like I had just slept for a week. It was one of the most amazing experiences I had ever had.”
It was soon after that O’Neill, who also started Alpha Rehabilitation at 920 E 56th St., decided to open Harbor Floats and Massage so those in Kearney could discover the benefits of flotation therapy as well.
O’Neill, who worked as a physical therapist in Kearney for 14 years, along with Traci Turek, co-owner, opened the business at 4010 Sixth Ave. Suite B.
“Just from my experience, I get really fatigued in the brain by about Thursday. My brain just hurts — it’s our computer screens we’re looking at, it’s our phones we constantly have in front of our faces and it’s all this constant abuse,” O’Neill said. “For me, I come in here and shut everything off. ... I always tell people that the last time you experienced this is when you were in the womb.”
To use the floats, customers must first shower at the facility to remove all oil from the skin. Afterward, they can get into the tanks where they have the option to put in ear plugs, listen to relaxing music, turn off the lights and shut the tank off to the outside world. Without the large amount of sensory stimulation most people are used to, customers are left with nothing but their thoughts and to relax.
The water is set at skin temperature. People can either use the tanks nude or wear a swimsuit, though O’Neill and Turek encourage users to go without to get the full effect of the experience.
Due to the 1,200 pounds of Epsom salt in the water, users will float in the tanks, giving them a sense of weightlessness.
“People that aren’t able to float in pools ... you don’t have to worry about that in the pods,” Turek said.
O’Neill, who describes himself as being “negative buoyant,” can attest to this. While floating, the water comes up to about the seam where your pants would be, he explained.
People have the option of using a neck float if they’re having trouble with their neck.
Once the one hour float session is over, people can rinse off the salt in the shower located in the room.
“It’s kind of hard for people to comprehend until you actually float,” Turek said. “Everybody has a different floating experience.”
Benefits of flotation therapy include wellness, relaxation and increased concentration, O’Neill and Turek said. Flotation also could help in lowering symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia and post-traumatic stress, and help heal muscle soreness after a workout, they said.
Aside from the saltwater floats, Harbor also offers infrared saunas and massages given by Teresa Turek, a massage therapist and Traci’s mother.
In the infrared saunas, people can use various pre-programmable health programs including detoxification, relaxation, anti-aging, cardiovascular, weight loss and pain relief. The programs run anywhere from 30-45 minutes. Users also can use Netflix, Pandora and Hulu on a small screen in the sauna.
“How an infrared sauna is different than your typical sauna is it raises your core temperature through light,” Turek said. “Some people that aren’t able to stand direct heat and temperatures, they’re able to come in here because you’re able to receive the benefits at a lower temperature — so anywhere from 120 degrees to 140 (degrees).”
Turek recommends that people just starting to use saunas begin using at 20 to 30 minutes.
Harbor is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day of the week. For more information and to make reservations, visit www.onehourbeach.com.