What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a medical treatment that enhances the body’s natural healing process by inhalation of 100% oxygen in a total-body chamber where atmospheric pressure is increased and controlled. It is used for a wide variety of treatments, usually as a part of an overall medical care plan.
Under normal circumstances, oxygen is transported throughout the body only by red blood cells. With HBOT, oxygen is dissolved into all of the body’s fluids, the plasma, the central nervous system fluids, the lymph, and the bone and can be carried to areas where circulation is diminished or blocked. In this way, extra oxygen can reach all of the damaged tissue and the body can support its own healing process. The increased oxygen greatly enhances the ability of white blood cells to kill bacteria, reduces swelling and allows new blood vessels to grow more rapidly into the affected areas. It is a simple, non-invasive and painless treatment.
What are the benefits of HBOT?
It has long been known that healing many areas of the body cannot take place without appropriate oxygen levels in the tissue. Most illnesses and injuries occur, and often linger, at the cellular or tissue level. In many cases, including circulatory problems; non-healing wounds; and strokes, adequate oxygen cannot reach the damaged area and the body’s natural healing ability is unable to function properly. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy provides this extra oxygen naturally and with minimal side effects.
How does hyperbaric oxygen help brain injury or stroke?
When cells in the brain die, either from trauma or lack of oxygen, blood plasma leaks out into surrounding brain tissue causing swelling and reducing blood flow. These otherwise normal cells go dormant because they can’t function without the appropriate amount of oxygen. HBOT dramatically increases the oxygen carried in the blood plasma, making oxygen available to heal damaged capillary walls, preventing plasma leakage and reducing swelling. As the swelling decreases, blood flow can be restored to the dormant tissue (neurovascularization) and these cells then have the potential to function again.
Athletes and HBOT
A sports injury can be devastating to a professional athlete’s career. Professional athletes that are forced to miss practice or competition due to injury can face being cut from their team or non-renewed contracts. Because a professional athlete’s success is largely due to their body’s ability to perform at the highest level, many are turning to HBOT for quick recovery from injuries and workouts.
The majority of sports related injuries involve strains and sprains, which cause swelling and edema (accumulation of excess fluid in connective tissue). Coupling HBOT with traditional rehabilitation methods allows healing time to be significantly reduced permitting the athlete’s to return to training and competition much faster.
Athletic performance is highly dependent on the physical condition of the athletes’. The Hyperbaric chamber allows the athlete to recover more quickly and improves general health, which leads to greater physical performance. In a study involving soccer players in Scotland, the time it takes to recover from joint, muscle, ligament, tendon, and other types of injuries was reduced by 70% when the players were treated with Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy in addition to physiotherapy. The Hyperbaric chamber also speeds recovery from workouts by infusing oxygen into the body’s tissue. This allows the athlete to perform better because he/she is fully recovered from the previous workout.
The risk of injuries is a potential hazard for all sports and can occur in even the most novice athletes. More and more athletes are taking control of their recovery and coming back stronger than ever using hyperbaric oxygen therapy. A hyperbaric oxygen chamber creates an environment of increased pressure, which forces greater amounts of oxygen into the body. This higher concentration of oxygen reaches the blood supply, organs, injured muscle and bone tissue, damaged tendons and joints, supporting the body’s natural healing process at a much faster rate. In effect, recovery times are reduced, performance is improved, and endurance is enhanced. In fact, the effectiveness of hyperbaric therapy has been well documented. Consequently, professional NBA, NHL, and NFL teams (including the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys) currently utilize hyperbaric chambers for player therapy.
Who would ever believe that something as natural and simple as the air we breathe (at an increased pressure level) could give our athletes the extra edge that is unavailable in pill or powder..
Dr. Rossignol, medical doctor and hyperbaric specialist, equated an hour treatment in a personal hyperbaric chamber to taking 1400 mg of Motrin, without the toxic response. “You get increased oxygenation, decreased swelling, and decreased inflammation, all from one treatment,” Dr. Rossignol commented. “If a drug did this, a pharmaceutical company would make quite a bit of money.”
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy may serve to provide a means of therapy to facilitate a speedier resumption to pre-injury activity levels as well as improve the short and long term prognosis of the injury (Babler and Rhodes, “The Role of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy in Sports Medicine.” Sports Med. 2000)
Increasing the oxygen supply to a musculoskeletal system in the state of fatigue activates cellular activity, increases adenosine triphosphate (ATP) synthesis, and promotes the metabolism of fatigue substances. HBOT is considered as a method of promoting recovery from fatigue. (Ishii et al, “Hyperbaric Oxygen As An Adjuvent for Athletes.” Sports Med. 2005)
The increased oxygenation allows for many health benefits, such as cell growth and regeneration, detoxification, immune support, new capillary growth, and improved neurological functioning
Autism and HBOT
Autism affects up to 1.5 million Americans. With an estimated annual growth rate of 15%, it’s the fastest growing developmental disability in this country. While the cause of Autism remains unknown, many medical professionals (along with existing research) say Autism may be caused by a state of hypoxia, or lack of oxygen to areas of the brain. While there is currently no known cure for Autism, researchers are very encouraged by the use of Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) in treating Autism.
The rationale in using HBOT in the treatment of Autism is that it increases cerebral blood flow and thus oxygen to areas of the brain, which are thought to be oxygen deficient. And the research supporting HBOT is overwhelming. In study after study, HBOT is proving to have a positive to and often dramatic impact on people with Autism. In one recent landmark studies, HBOT was 93% effective. And of the countless studies done so far, all seem to indicate that HBOT can play a very positive role in treating Autism. But that’s not all. HBOT has shown great promise in the treatment of Cerebral Palsy.
Cerebral Palsy and HBOT
In the United States, there are an estimated half a million people with some degree of cerebral palsy, with almost 7000 children newly diagnosed every year. The condition involves the inability to control movement due to neurological dysfunction in areas, which regulate motor skills. While there is no cure for Cerebral Palsy, researchers are similarly very encouraged by the use of Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) in treating the condition.
There are four broad categories of cerebral palsy: spastic, athetoid, ataxic, and mixed forms that are defined by the type of movement disturbance disorder in each case. Spastic cerebral palsy affects 70 to 80 percent of patients. Patients who suffer from spastic cerebral palsy have muscles that are stiffly and permanently contracted. Doctors often describe the type of spastic cerebral palsy a patient has based on which limbs are affected.
In a recent study in Brazil, researchers using HBOT to treat CP found that 94% of patients taking part in the study had a reduction in spasticity. Subjects taking part in the study also reported improved vision, hearing and speech. Another study carried out at the prestigious University of Texas Medical Center yielded strikingly similar results.
Scientists have varying opinions on why the therapy is so successful as a treatment for these conditions. Some theories suggest that the brain in some persons with Autism, as well as Cerebral Palsy (and other neurological disorders), is lacking oxygen and in a dormant, or sleeping state due to lack of blood flow. Hyperbaric forces oxygen into tissue throughout the body including brain tissue and fluid, resulting in a re-awakening of dormant areas of the brain. In addition, hyperbaric is thought to provide an optimal environment to assist in the regeneration of brain tissue.
What Makes Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy so Effective?
HBOT covers a wide range of disorders. While there is no magic bullet in health, there are certain essential mechanisms in the body that must work correctly in order to be healthy.
One such mechanism is blood flow, or perfusion. Put simply, each and every cell in the body needs oxygen and nutrients that it can only receive from blood.
The fact that we breathe air does not promise that each cell is receiving what it needs to thrive. In fact, most of us, for one reason or another, are not getting the amount of perfusion that we need.
Inflammatory conditions, whether the result of stress or injury, all benefit from a therapeutic dose of oxygen. Not only does oxygen feed the cells, but healthy blood flow also carries away waste products like cellular debris and dangerous free radical toxins.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy bathes the cells in the body with oxygen.
Because a Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy chamber is pressurized, oxygen easily enters into every tissue of the body.
This is why HBOT dramatically diminishes the appearance of wrinkles in the skin. It directly encourages overall skin health.
- The surface of the skin and the tissue that structurally supports the skin rely on a constant supply of nutrients, especially oxygen.
- When cells do not receive enough oxygen, they slowly begin to malfunction and die.
This means that HBOT helps the skin heal after trauma, injury, or surgery. A therapeutic dose of oxygen can also improve skin infections, and it can be especially useful in regulating the appearance of chronic acne. Even fungal skin infections and dandruff, also called scalp dermatitis, will noticeably benefit from increased circulation and healthy blood flow!
More HBOT Benefits
- Delivers oxygen to tissue up to 25 times normal levels
- Stimulates the production of body stem cells
- Boosts immune system function
- Helps the body to clear toxins and increases the body’s ability to fight infection
- Promotes regeneration of injured tissue
- Reduces fatigue from chronic inadequate oxygen supply to the cells and tissue of the body
- Reduces jet lag related fatigue symptoms
- Decreases ligament and tissue healing time
- Successfully treats traumatic and ischemic brain injuries
- Significantly reduces swelling
- Significantly shortens the inflammatory process
- Improves range of motion
- Increases the production of collagen
- Increases growth of cells that form reparative tissue (Fibrolastic Proliferation)
- Enhances the growth of blood vessels (angiogenesis)
- Increases oxygen levels in tissue (Hyperoxia)
- Increases endurance during workouts
- Decreases recovery time between workouts
- Alleviates chronic headaches