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Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy as Fibromyalgia Treatment

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy as Fibromyalgia Treatment

An overview of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and Fibromyalgia

In order to understand how hyperbaric oxygen therapy works, we need to understand the body’s natural circulation process. Our heart pumps blood into our lungs. Oxygen is then inhaled and attaches itself to our red blood cells. As our blood circulates, the oxygen splits from the red blood cells and gets absorbed by tissues and cells that are then converted into energy.

This cycle continuously happens as we breathe oxygen allowing the human body to gain the fuel it needs to perform everyday functions like healing through wounds and combating infection. A healthy circulatory system typically saturates oxygen at almost 100% capacity.

The difference between regular breathing compared to breathing in a hyperbaric chamber under pressure is found in oxygen absorption. In a hyperbaric chamber, our body’s oxygen absorption increases by 28% to 40%. This increase in absorption allows oxygen to dissolve directly into our cells, tissues, and blood plasma which promotes further healing, quickens recovery, restores mitochondrial function, reduces inflammation, kills anaerobic infections, fuels cells, and helps the nervous system recover. This additional oxygen provides relief for people with autoimmune and degenerative diseases and inflammatory conditions.

Fibromyalgia is a disorder that causes pain all over the body. Also called widespread pain, it can also be accompanied by stiffness all over the body, anxiety, depression, fatigue and difficulty sleeping, problems with memory and concentration, headaches, and even emotional and mental distress. People with fibromyalgia may have a lower pain tolerance.

In the US, 4 million adults are diagnosed with fibromyalgia, around 2% of the adult population. Its cause is unknown, but it can be treated and managed effectively. Medication, reducing stress, and talk therapy are some options that help control fibromyalgia symptoms.

Apart from pain and disability, fibromyalgia complications can lead to lower quality of life, more frequent hospitalizations, and higher rates of other rheumatic conditions. Symptoms of fibromyalgia include cognitive disabilities, pain and fatigue.

It is also associated with other conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, painful bladder syndrome, temporomandibular joint disorders, migraines and other types of headaches, anxiety, and depression.

Certain factors can cause fibromyalgia including genetics, infections, and physical or emotional events such as an accident or chronic stress. It is more common in women than in men. 

Can Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy diminish Fibromyalgia?

While there are many ways to manage fibromyalgia, hyperbaric oxygen therapy is highly recommended for treatment. With the additional oxygenation brought about by hyperbaric oxygen therapy, fibromyalgia is helped through the improvement of the metabolic function of the brain.

The pressurized oxygen in the hyperbaric chamber improves circulation and blood flow, significantly decreasing inflammation in the nervous system. Because of this, there is an increased blood flow and oxygen to the brain, which increases the capacity of brain function.

It also supports autonomic regulation, which balances the sympathetic (the body’s response to stressful situations) and parasympathetic nervous system (prevents the body from overworking and returns it to a composed and calm state).

Another important effect of hyperbaric oxygen therapy is that it increases the metabolic function of the mitochondria, which generates energy for our cells to function. With an increase in the function of mitochondria, we see an increase in stem cell regulation which then repair damaged cells and create new cells.

These new cells are used to heal and improve organs and tissues in the body that needs them. In the same way that hyperbaric oxygen helps promote healing for many other conditions, this does the same for fibromyalgia.

A Clinical Trial on Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and Fibromyalgia

clinical trial called Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Can Diminish Fibromyalgia Syndrome was spearheaded by Shai Efrati in 2015. The objective of this particular study was to evaluate the effect of hyperbaric oxygen therapy on the symptoms and brain activity in fibromyalgia syndrome patients.

For this study, patients were assigned to crossover and treated groups. Patients in the treated group were evaluated at baseline and HBOT. Those in the crossover group were evaluated thrice: baseline, after a control period with no treatment, and after hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

They were evaluated based on a physical examination including pain threshold and tender point count, an extensive evaluation of quality of life, and single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) for evaluation of brain activity.

The treatment plan was 40 sessions, 5 days a week for 90 minutes with 100% oxygen at 2 atmospheres. Sixty female patients between the ages 21-67 years and diagnosed with fibromyalgia syndrome at least 2 years earlier.

The results showed significant improvements in all subjective tenderness tests and quality of life outcome measures. Both groups showed significant amelioration on all fibromyalgia syndrome symptoms.

The analysis of SPECT imaging showed rectification on the abnormal brain activity, meaning there was a decrease of hyperactivity in the brain. No improvement was observed after the control period and treatment with hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

Manage Fibromyalgia with Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

The study presented provides evidence that hyperbaric oxygen therapy can significantly improve the symptoms and the quality of life for fibromyalgia patients.

It also shows that hyperbaric oxygen therapy can induce neuroplasticity and significantly rectify abnormal brain activity in pain areas of fibromyalgia patients.


Vishaal Veerula, MD

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