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Many fibromyalgia sufferers have difficulty finding a treatment that is genuinely effective for their symptoms. It can be especially hard to find treatments that help alleviate the wide number of symptoms associated with fibromyalgia, such as fatigue and migraine headaches. Recently, a new treatment has become available for fibromyalgia sufferers. Known as hyperbaric oxygen therapy, this treatment could be the answer to your fibromyalgia pains.
What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy, or HBOT, uses pressurized oxygen in order to treat painful side effects of certain medical conditions. Delivered in an oxygen chamber, HBOT has been used for centuries. In fact, the first sealed hyperbaric oxygen chamber was created in Britain in 1662. Long associated with diving, hyperbaric oxygen therapy is now being used in a number of large medical facilities and hospitals throughout the United States in order to treat over 60 different medical conditions.
What Conditions Can Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Treat?
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been commonly used to treat decompression sickness in divers, as well as carbon monoxide poisoning. This type of treatment has now been expanded in order to help patients suffering from:
•soft tissue burns
•chronic fatigue syndrome
What is Involved with Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves the continual delivery of pressurized oxygen to a patient who is suffering from a specific illness or condition. Generally, we breathe in air that is comprised of a mixture of oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon monoxide. On earth, this air exists at a pressure of approximately 14.7 pounds per square inch. During HBOT, only 100% pure oxygen is delivered to the patient. Additionally, this oxygen is pressurized by a machine to twice the normal levels.
How Does Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Work?
The key mechanism involved in HBOT is known as hyperoxygenation. As the patient is immersed in the pure, pressurized oxygen, their bodily tissues are forced to soak up increased levels of oxygen. Oxygen saturates the skin and enters the blood stream, causing a number of biological reactions, which work to reduce pain and treat illness. In particular, hyperbaric oxygen therapy helps to:
•stimulate the development of new blood vessels, improving circulation
•stimulate the action of white blood cells, helping the body to fight off infection
•narrows certain blood vessels, reducing inflammation and swelling
•inhibit the growth of foreign bacteria and organisms
Can Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Help Fibromyalgia Patients?
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a relatively new treatment for fibromyalgia. However, initial studies seem to illustrate that HBOT has a positive effect on the symptoms of fibromyalgia, including muscle pain and tender points.
A study performed by medical researchers at a Turkish military hospital revealed astonishing results when it comes to using HBOT on fibromyalgia patients. This double blind, placebo-controlled study exposed fibromyalgia patients to 15, 90-minute hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatments. Researchers recorded information regarding the patient’s tender points and pain threshold before the study began, throughout the treatments, and again following treatments
The results of the study showed that the fibromyalgia patients receiving HBOT reported a decreased number of tender points and an increased pain threshold. In fact, after 15 sessions, the patients recorded half the number of original tender points and twice their original pain threshold. Those patients who received placebo HBOT recorded no improvements.
What To Expect with Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
When you go for your first HBOT session, you will be given a set of rules that you must adhere to. These rules are to ensure your safety in the oxygen chamber. In particular, you will be asked to ensure that your skin and hair is completely clean of all products, including moisturizers, leave-in conditioners, perfume, and talcum powder. Because the chamber contains pure oxygen, it is highly flammable, and these products could cause a fire risk. You will also be asked to wear clothing made out of 100% cotton.
When you arrive, you will be placed on a movable cot and rolled into the chamber. Most chambers are designed for one person only, and are made out of clear plastic. You will be able to read, nap, or listen to music inside of the chamber. The chamber will also have a microphone inside, so that you can communicate with your chamber operator.
The therapy itself lasts between 60 and 90 minutes. You may notice that your ears begin to pop a little, as they work to equalize the pressure in the chamber. After your session is completed, the chamber will be decompressed, and you will be allowed to go home.
Possible Complications Associated with Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
HBOT is not without its side effects, a few of which can be quite dangerous. However, when professionally monitored, these complications are rare. One of the main complications is known as barotrauma. This occurs when the pressure in the chamber causes body tissues to become compressed, which can result in a burst eardrum or lung. Another complication, known as oxygen toxicity, occurs when the body absorbs too much oxygen. This can result in nausea, vomiting, and seizures.
Finding Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
Most HBOT labs are located in large hospitals and run by qualified technicians familiar with working with gases that are stored under pressure. HBOT is covered by medical insurance however, you will need to get a prescription from your health care provider. You can book private sessions at a cost of about $100 to $150. If you are worried about the credentials of those operating the chamber, be sure to ask if the technician is a member of the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society, which ensures that technicians are properly trained.