Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is a non-invasive, FDA-approved treatment that has gained popularity due to its myriad of benefits. It can be used to treat serious illnesses such as flesh-eating disease (necrotizing fasciitis), boost anti-aging treatments by increasing collagen production, and speed up healing times when used as a supplement to other treatments, such as physical therapy.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy was first used in the early 20th century by Orville Cunningham to treat the flu. In the 1940s, the US military adopted this therapy as a treatment for divers suffering from the bends (decompression sickness). By the 1960s, Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy had become a go-to treatment for miners and firefighters suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Thanks to ongoing scientific research, we now have a deeper understanding of how this therapy works and its many beneficial applications. It has become a common component in the treatment of many serious conditions and is even sought out by healthy individuals wishing to enhance their physical and mental performance. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what exactly Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is, how it is used today, and who can benefit from it.
What Is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?
The human body requires oxygen to survive and humans are able to exist on Earth because the atmosphere naturally contains roughly 21% oxygen. This oxygen fuels cellular respiration and is an essential component in multiple processes within the body. The harder the body needs to work, the more oxygen is required. This is why our breathing rate increases when we work out. Similarly, if tissues within the body become damaged, more oxygen will be needed for healing to occur.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy works based on this concept. While the human body has incredible powers of self-healing, it requires fuel to carry out these processes. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) boosts patients’ blood oxygen levels, which promotes overall healing. Because of this, HBOT is used to treat a wide range of conditions.
How Does HBOT Work?
HBOT is a non-invasive therapy in which patients are enclosed in a hyperbaric chamber that is pressurized to 3x the normal level in our atmosphere. As patients breathe normally within this chamber, oxygen is diffused into the body’s blood plasma. The process helps transport oxygen up to 3x further into damaged cells than what is possible even with the assistance of an oxygen mask. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is able to drastically increase the body’s own healing capabilities.
What Are the Benefits of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?
HBOT therapy is safe for both children and adults and boasts a wide range of benefits. It is an effective treatment for numerous conditions and can also be utilized by healthy individuals as a way to improve sleep, reduce inflammation, enhance physical performance, improve mental clarity, and more.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy has garnered attention as a beauty and anti-aging treatment because of its skin rejuvenating capabilities. It has been shown to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. HBOT also promotes bone and neurovascular regeneration and can boost stem cell (or progenitor cell) growth within the body.
HBOT is often prescribed in conjunction with other treatments. For example, this therapy has been shown to enhance white blood cell count, which helps fight infection. Further, HBOT can also increase the effectiveness of antibiotics and works well in conjunction with physical therapy to treat sports-related injuries.
To date, Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy has been FDA-approved to treat the following conditions:
- Cyanide Poisoning
- Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
- The Bends (DecompressionSickness)
- Acute Traumatic Ischemias (including Compartment Syndrome and Crush Injury)
- Gas Embolism
- Thermal Burns
- Certain Non-Healing Wounds (including Diabetic Foot and Diabetic Retinopathy)
- Compromised Skin Grafts and/or Flaps
- Necrotizing Fasciitis
- Bone Necrosis and Soft Tissue Damage Caused by Radiation
- Severe Anemia
- Intracranial Abscesses
- Clostridial Myonecrosis and Myositis (Gas Gangrene)
As scientific research expands, doctors are continually learning more about the myriad of ways HBOT can help patients. Some of the “off-label” conditions and symptoms doctors may utilize Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy to aid in the treatment of include but are not limited to:
- Stress and Anxiety Disorders
- ADD and ADHD
- Lyme Disease
- Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Cerebral Palsy
- Bell’s Palsy
- Certain Types of Cancer
- Traumatic brain Injury
What Should I Expect During Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?
Each treatment lasts between 60 to 120 minutes, depending on the condition being treated and the severity of symptoms. The total number of treatments is tailored to each individual patient’s needs, but typically varies between 20 to 60 sessions which are administered 3-5 days a week (Mon – Fri). Your specific treatment regimen would be determined after an in-depth consultation with a clinician.
Before entering the hyperbaric oxygen chamber, patients are provided with medical clothing and any topical wounds are dressed, as it is not oxygen coming in contact with wounds that helps them heal faster, but rather the oxygen that is breathed in and absorbed into the bloodstream. Once preparation is complete, patients lie down inside the chamber and the chamber is filled with air. When the chamber is fully inflated, there is enough space for a patient to sit fully upright if they so choose. Patients can adjust their positioning throughout the treatment sessions as long as they remain inside the chamber.
Most patients find Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy to be a relaxing and pleasant treatment. Patients are able to read a book, meditate, listen to music, play or work on their phones or laptops, and some choose to take a nap. Due to the pressure within the chamber, it is common to experience mild ear discomfort, similar to what one experiences while flying.
Are There Any Side Effects Associated with HBOT Therapy?
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is not recommended for women who are pregnant, patients who have suffered a recent ear trauma, recently undergone ear surgery, or have certain types of lung diseases. Though infrequent, the most common side effect associated with HBOT is pain or trauma in the middle ear.
In rare cases, more severe side effects of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy can include eye damage or oxygen poisoning, which can lead to further complications such as fluid in the lungs or seizures. It is important to provide your doctor or clinician with a full medical history before starting this or any new therapies, so they can assess your unique risks and determine the best treatment plan for you.
Interested in learning more about this revolutionary treatment? Book a consultation at Aspire Regenerative to find out how Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy might be able to help you achieve your health and wellness goals. Based on your objectives and unique medical history, our clinicians can make specific treatment recommendations that harness the power of this and other innovative therapies.