Hyperbaric oxygen is the delivery of oxygen at pressures greater than the atmospheric pressure, similar to pressures that one might experience from diving to the bottom of a deep swimming pool, or in the case of the larger chambers, even deeper.
During a hyperbaric oxygen chamber treatment, oxygen is delivered at high concentrations under increased pressure which forces oxygen into cells. This can benefit the cells in a variety of ways. It can improve blood cell formation, reduce inflammation, improve cognitive function and help heal tissues with compromised blood flow such as in irradiation burns and chronic infections.
Many athletes find that hyperbaric oxygen therapy helps reduce fatigability and improve recovery time from extensive workouts.
At Singing River we offer mild hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which means our chamber goes up to 1.3 atmospheres of pressure and we deliver approximately 60% oxygen. Our chamber is a soft chamber that can easily fit 2 adults.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is used traditionally for diabetic and pressure ulcers to assist in healing, for BENDS – also known as decompression illness, which can happen from scuba diving, if one rises to the surface too quickly, chronic bone infections, and chronic anemias.
However, hyperbaric oxygen therapy may also be beneficial for other conditions as well.
Cerebral palsy: can improve cognition, motor skills, speech, and language, reduce spasticity and improve balance and walking. There have been a number of studies showing improvement in children with cerebral palsy using HBOT treatments when compared to children with CP who did not receive HBOT. A typical course of treatment is 1 to 1 ½ hour dives, given 5-6 times per week for 40 dives.
Autism: HBOT treatments have been beneficial for a number of children with autism. IT decreases inflammation, improves cognition improves language, stimulates better eye contact, can improve sleep and help reduce gastrointestinal issues associated with autism. Many parents go into the chamber with their children to alleviate anxiety.
Traumatic Brain Injury and Stroke Recovery: Hyperbaric oxygen can help with a number of neurologic conditions by improving helping the brain recover from injury by improving oxygenation, reducing inflammation, facilitating neuro-regeneration and increasing proliferation of stem cells in the brain. In addition to injury, HBOT can help with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s chorea, etc.
Chronic Inflammation: By increasing blood flow to an area and improving oxygenation, HBOT can reduce inflammation, fight infection, increase angiogenesis (new blood vessel formation) thereby reducing inflammation and increasing healing of the tissue. It is particularly beneficial in conditions with compromised healing and circulation such as diabetic ulcers and chronic osteomyelitis.
Risks: Mild hyperbaric oxygen therapy is extremely safe. However, there are some minor risks and contraindications associated with treatments. Ear congestion, fluid in the ears can be uncomfortable and there is a risk of barotrauma (ruptured eardrums). Sinus and nasal congestion can make being in the chamber uncomfortable and it is generally recommended to avoid it until the congestion has resolved. If you are claustrophobic, then this treatment can be anxiety provoking. Some people experience transient changes in their vision following hyperbaric oxygen. This is less of an issue with the mild chambers and usually clears within a few hours to a few days. Occasionally, it will last longer.
If you have cancer, HBOT is controversial. Some people use hyperbaric in conjunction with a ketogenic diet and have found it to be very helpful.