The human body possesses incredible healing abilities. When we get a cut, a scab forms and eventually, new skin grows in its place. When we break a bone, a callus forms around the break until new tissue regenerates. What if you could provide these powerful processes with enough fuel to work faster and more efficiently? This is essentially how hyperbaric oxygen therapy is used.
Oxygen is fuel for the human body. It is necessary for everything from cellular respiration to repairing damaged tissue and maintaining proper brain function. While the air we breathe supplies our bodies with enough oxygen to survive, pressurizing that air can actually help transport oxygen farther into the cells that need it most. By simply breathing normally inside of a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, patients can get enough oxygen to boost their body’s internal methods of self healing.
In this article, we’ll answer some of the most common questions about hyperbaric oxygen therapy. These answers should help illuminate the treatment process and give you a deeper understanding of how this innovative therapy is used by doctors to treat a wide range of conditions and symptoms.
What Are the Goals of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can help oxygen penetrate up to 3x farther into damaged tissues within the body, which promotes healing and speeds up recovery. To date, HBOT has been FDA-approved to treat the following conditions:
- Certain Non-Healing Wounds
- Necrotizing Fasciitis (Flesh-Eating Disease)
- Osteomyelitis (Bone Infection)
- Intracranial (Brain) Abscesses
- Acute Thermal Burn Injury
- Air Embolism (Gas Embolism)
- Severe Anemia
- Decompression Sickness (The Bends)
- Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
- Cyanide Poisoning
- Clostridial Myositis and Myonecrosis (Gas Gangrene)
- Compromised Skin Grafts and Flaps
- Compartment Syndrome
- Crush Injury
- Certain Acute Traumatic Ischemias
- Radiation Injuries (Bone Necrosis and Soft Tissue Damage)
- Diabetic Ulcers
In addition to the list of above illnesses, HBOT can aid in the “off-label” treatment of over 100 ailments. Some of these include:
- Certain Types of Cancer
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Anxiety and Stress Disorders
- ADD and ADHD
- Lyme Disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Cerebral Palsy
- Bell’s Palsy
- Certain Spider Bites
What Are the Benefits of HBOT?
There are numerous benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and as research continues, scientists are finding new ways to utilize this therapy. It is sometimes prescribed as a standalone treatment, and in other cases, it can be used as a complementary therapy in conjunction with other treatments, such as medications or physical therapy. To date, HBOT has been found to:
- Boost stem cell growth
- Assist with bone healing
- Facilitate neurovascular regeneration
- Increase the effectiveness of certain antibiotics
- Help fight infection
- Counteract or inhibit certain toxins
- Reduce inflammation and swelling
- Boost the immune system
Who Is a Candidate for Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?
If you suffer from any of the conditions or ailments mentioned above, you may be a good candidate for hyperbaric oxygen therapy. In addition, HBOT can be used by primarily healthy individuals to maximize physical performance and mental clarity. Many professional athletes now incorporate hyperbaric oxygen therapy into their training regimen to optimize recovery after workouts.
Celebrities and everyday people seeking innovative anti-aging treatments have also started using hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Research findings have shown that HBOT has the power to reduce common signs of aging, such as wrinkles, fine lines, and signs of photoaging.
How Do You Prepare for HBOT Treatment?
Before beginning a regimen of hyperbaric oxygen therapy, your doctor will need to go over your medical history and conduct a checkup. Once your doctor determines that you are cleared to begin treatment, they will write a prescription outlining the precise number of treatments needed and any other details specific to your therapy and condition being treated.
On the day of treatment sessions, any wounds will be dressed in clean bandages (it is not oxygen coming in contact with wounds that facilitates healing but rather oxygen that is breathed in). Prior to HBOT treatment sessions, patients should avoid consuming alcohol. Otherwise, there are no lengthy processes that need to be followed before treatments and sessions can be scheduled after work or over a long lunch break to accommodate busy work schedules.
What Should You Expect During Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?
HBOT treatment sessions last between 60 to 120 minutes. During this time, patients can relax, read a book, watch a show, or enjoy another form of entertainment of their choosing. It is normal to feel mild ear discomfort similar to the pressure sensation of ears “popping” during takeoff or landing in an airplane. Swallowing or yawning while the chamber is being inflated and reaching full pressure will help to alleviate this feeling. Once the hyperbaric oxygen chamber is fully inflated, patients are able to sit up or remain lying down. You may feel a bit tired after your first couple of treatments, but patients are able to resume their normal activities immediately afterwards.
Are There Side Effects Associated with Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?
In rare cases, patients can experience side effects, but many of these can be avoided by conducting a thorough pre-treatment analysis. Your doctor will determine if this treatment is right for you based on your medical history, current health concerns, and personal wellness goals.
Side effects associated with hyperbaric oxygen therapy are infrequent but include pain or trauma in the middle ear, eye damage, and oxygen poisoning. These side effects can lead to more severe conditions such as seizures or fluid build-up in the lungs. In addition, HBOT is not recommended for patients suffering from certain types of lung diseases, anyone who has recently undergone ear surgery or experienced a recent ear injury, and women who are pregnant.
How Many HBOT Treatments Are Needed?
The precise number of treatments varies from patient to patient, based on the condition being treated and the desired outcome. Anywhere between 20 to 60 total treatments may be prescribed. Each HBOT session lasts approximately 60 to 120 minutes, and sessions are typically conducted 3 to 5 days per week until the full regimen has been fulfilled.
Is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Painful?
Most patients find hyperbaric oxygen therapy sessions to be relaxing. Many patients use this as a time to unwind, take a nap, listen to music, or read. You may experience some mild ear discomfort similar to the sensation you would experience while diving or driving up a mountain, but HBOT should not be painful. If you do experience any pain during treatment, tell your doctor right away.
Have more questions about hyperbaric oxygen therapy? Book a consultation at Aspire Regenerative. Our clinicians can provide in-depth answers to any of your HBOT questions and help you determine if this treatment is right for you.