Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a medical treatment where patients breathe pure oxygen in a pressurized chamber. The practice began in the middle of the 20th century when the U.S. Navy realized it was an effective treatment for divers with decompression sickness after deep-sea dives. Treatment in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber helped divers readjust to surface pressure and oxygen levels by flooding their bloodstream with extra oxygen.
Over the years, scientists have learned that oxygen is an effective treatment for many ailments. Doctors often prescribe hyperbaric oxygen therapy as a part of the treatment regimen for conditions like anemia and blocked arteries or after severe burns and injuries.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy delivers additional oxygen to injured tissue and speeds healing without drugs or physical therapy. It’s completely non-invasive and has very few side effects.
Are you interested in learning more? Read on to discover all the unexpected hyperbaric oxygen therapy benefits.
What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?
Typically, humans breathe air containing approximately 21% oxygen, which is usually sufficient for getting oxygen into the bloodstream, where red blood cells deliver it to vital organs. If you have a condition where additional oxygen would improve healing, your doctor might prescribe hyperbaric oxygen treatment.
During hyperbaric oxygen therapy, patients are exposed to 100% pure oxygen in a pressurized space. Treatment usually involves lying down in a pressurized chamber and breathing the oxygen-rich air. A treatment session lasts anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours, depending on the goal of therapy. You may need multiple sessions spanning across weeks.
There are no serious side effects of hyperbaric oxygen treatment, although some patients experience mild headaches or sinus pressure. Other people notice a popping in their ears, similar to the feeling you might get on an airplane. The side effects are typically mild and pass quickly.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Benefits
There are many benefits to hyperbaric oxygen therapy, from treating acute injuries to promoting general wellness. The treatment is painless and non-invasive. The whole process requires nothing more than lying down and relaxing in the chamber.
Some hyperbaric oxygen therapy benefits include treatment for the following conditions:
Studies show that HBOT has beneficial effects on blocked arteries. Treatment with HBOT may reduce the amount of blockage in arteries and may help to prevent more plaque from building up in blood vessels. Researchers believe that HBOT promotes an antioxidant response that speeds healing in damaged arterial cells, reducing inflammation and increasing blood flow through affected arteries.
Anemia from severe blood loss
After severe blood loss, the number of red blood cells is less than the amount the body needs to maintain adequate oxygen levels in all tissues. Red blood cells are responsible for delivering oxygen to the rest of the body, and without them, other organ systems don’t get the oxygen they need for optimal function. HBOT can’t cause new red blood cells to grow, but it can increase the amount of oxygen in the blood plasma, thus improving overall oxygen levels. HBOT sessions can provide an additional source of blood oxygenation while the body replenishes its supply of red blood cells after trauma.
Specific brain and sinus infections
Infections in the brain are challenging to treat because the brain is so inaccessible. Not only does the skull limit access to the brain, but the natural blood-brain barrier also prevents brain tissue from absorbing medication efficiently. Infections of the sinuses that reach the brain or brain abscesses are life-threatening conditions that typically require extremely high doses of drugs and possible brain surgery to treat effectively. Research shows that HBOT can improve outcomes from these infections. The oxygen itself limits the growth of bacteria and fungus, the organisms typically responsible for causing brain infections. In addition, the treatment reduces swelling in the brain, which can decrease the need for surgery and the risk of damage from pressure in the brain. HBOT is used as adjuvant therapy in these cases, meaning it’s part of a larger treatment plan that includes medication and monitoring.
Carbon monoxide poisoning
Inhaling carbon monoxide prevents the body from using oxygen properly, leading to a risk of brain or organ damage. HBOT increases the amount of oxygen in the blood immediately and promotes the faster elimination of harmful carbon monoxide. Typically, HBOT is effective when administered within 24 hours after carbon monoxide exposure.
Burn healing is a painful and lengthy process. HBOT is one therapy that can help speed healing while not increasing discomfort. In studies, researchers found that HBOT can reduce swelling, preserve skin structures, maintain the blood supply to the skin, and increase the immune response. Prescribed as a supplement to other burn therapies, including medication to fight infection and physical therapy, HBOT is an effective burn therapy.
Healing skin grafts
Skin grafts are procedures where doctors replace injured skin with skin taken from another part of the body. Healing is complicated due to the delicate process of connecting the blood supply from the existing skin to the grafted skin. In cases where graft healing is delayed or compromised, HBOT can improve skin recovery by bringing additional oxygen to the graft site, promoting the growth of blood vessels, and reducing swelling.
Low blood flow in the arteries
HBOT is known to reduce blockages and decrease swelling in the vascular system. It can also stimulate vascular endothelial growth factor, which promotes the repair and growth of blood vessels. Healthier vessels lead to improved circulation.
Post-trauma from a crush injury
Crush injuries are highly complex because the damaged cells release harmful oxygen radicals. The oxygen radicals can lead to irreversible tissue damage in the injured area. HBOT encourages the body to produce substances that clear out oxygen radicals and limit the damage they cause.
Even people who are not suffering from infection or injury might benefit from HBOT. The increased oxygen in the blood can promote overall wellness. Athletes may find that HBOT improves recovery time after training sessions. Some people report that natural healing from HBOT enhances the look of their skin. HBOT may also help people feel more energized and improve cognitive function.
The beneficial effects of hyperbaric oxygen therapy are numerous for many health conditions. Moreover, it can improve overall health and wellness.
At the Epigenetics Healing Center, we use hyperbaric oxygen therapy as part of our package of functional medicine treatments and recommend it for some conditions in the Life Restoration Program. We have three hyperbaric oxygen chambers on-site, and our medical staff can recommend usage based on the specific benefits you want to receive.
We have seen the quality of life improve for individuals suffering from various conditions with the help of hyperbaric oxygen therapy. If you think hyperbaric oxygen therapy might be beneficial, call us to set up an appointment. We will address your health concerns and conditions and decide if hyperbaric oxygen therapy is right for you.
Are you ready to restore your life?
Dr. Jay Goodbinder ND DC DABCI is a doctor in Kansas City, MO who serves patients in the surrounding Kansas City areas, cities across the United States, and in several countries around the world.