Is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy the Key to Treating Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is not a severe health condition but it can be very annoying and even disabling the affected person in performing its daily activities. First of all it is not easily diagnosed and in addition to that there is no full treatment just an alleviation of the symptoms. It seems that the female gender suffers more form this condition than the male and it can be very painful causing great discomfort. However, there is a new research that can be extremely helpful in the treatment of fibromyalgia.

 The Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

This therapy is based on either sitting or lying in a controlled room with air pressure around 2 to 3 times higher than in a regular residing room. During the stay in this room the patient is given an oxygen mask that releases 100% pure oxygen. The stay in this air controlled chamber lasts for about 2 hours and in order to experience its positive effects the whole process needs to be repeated for 3 to 40 sessions, depending on the patient’s condition.

According to the findings of the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society the hyperbaric oxygen therapy can be effective for the following conditions:

  • Thermal burns
  • Blood loss
  • Anemia
  • Crush injury
  • Slow-healing wounds
  • Frostbite
  • Injuries caused by radiation from cancer treatment
  • Embolisms
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Gas gangrene
  • Compartment Syndrome
  • Decompression sickness
  • Intracranial abscess
  • Necrotizing soft tissue infections
  • Bone infection (osteomyelitis).

Fibromyalgia and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

According to a conducted 2015 study hyperbaric oxygen therapy could be used to help patients with fibromyalgia. This study was carried out by a team of researchers at Tel-Aviv University by conducting a randomized controlled clinical trial.

They believed that this therapy could be helpful for fibromyalgia patients due to the fact that it has been previously used on people who suffered from a stroke or brain injury and its use improved neuroplasticity and brain function. Hence, the idea came that this treatment could show similar effects on patients with fibromyalgia.

For their clinical trial the subjects were volunteers who had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia for at least two years. Researchers gathered 60 people in the age range of 21 to 67 years old, and each person experienced widespread pain all over the body and had 11 or more trigger (tender) points. This was a comprehensive study lasting for 33 months in which during the 31-month period there was some exclusion leaving them with 48 patients divided in two groups: 24 in a treatment group and 24 in a control group.

The hyperbaric oxygen therapy was applied for 2 months in the treatment group and the obtained results after this period showed improved markers of brain functionality and pain. For some of the patients the efficacy was so high that they entirely removed from use their regular medications for relief of chronic pain.

According to Tel-Aviv researchers who released the results of this study: “Since there is currently no solution for FMS [fibromyalgia] patients, and since HBOT [hyperbaric oxygen therapy] is obviously leading to significant improvement, it seems reasonable to let FMS patients benefit from HBOT, if possible, now rather than wait until future studies are completed.”

However, the hyperbaric oxygen therapy is still not widely used among patients with fibromyalgia as the health care system does not still implement it. Private clinics offer it to their patients, but it can be very expensive. The official health care system is careful in its use as for some conditions this therapy is still not proven to be effective.

Risks of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Although there are proofs for its efficacy, not every person should use it and because of that one should be very careful especially persons with the following risk factors:

  • Oxygen toxicity can trigger seizures.
  • The hyperbaric oxygen therapy can cause complications in patients with congenital heart disease.
  • The chamber pressure can damage the ears, sinuses, teeth and lungs.
  • Diabetic patients would be very careful when using it as it can disrupt blood sugar levels.
  • People suffering from claustrophobia should not use it.
  • Oxygen is highly flammable and only a licensed professional should operate the oxygen tank.

Note: Prior initiating any alternative method or treatment make sure to seek for an advice from your physician or medical expert.