What is it?
Hyperbaric Oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a non-invasive procedure during which clients immerse themselves in specially designed chamber pressurized greater than the earth’s (1). Administration is relatively simple with the sensation experienced similar to that flying and/or landing an airplane, or swimming to the bottom of a swimming pool. While in the chamber, subjects may comfortably watch television, listen to music or sleep.
Why is it important?
Although HBOT was originally developed as a treatment for the “bends” in divers, with extensive research on the mechanisms by which increased oxygen saturation and availability is utilized, it has now become very popular as a part of the treatment plans for conditions such as, accelerated wound healing (17-19), Traumatic Brain Injury/Concussion (3,5,8), stroke (6), headache (6,8), Cerebral Palsy (CP) (21), Multiple Sclerosis (MS) (22), Pancreatitis (23), and more.
How does it work?
Oxygen is the key element that cells, especially in the central nervous system (CNS), thrive on due to the high demand associated with neuronal signal transduction, synaptic transmission, and action potential nerve excitability (2). The use of high-pressure oxygen allows for additional oxygen to dissolve into the blood plasma, where it is only usually present in small amounts, increasing the amount of available oxygen to cells.
How does it help?
This increases blood flow and promotes blood vessel development within the body, but most importantly, the brain. It has been argued that this increase in cerebral blood flow increases the function of neurons by stimulating axonal growth, thus increasing the communicative capacity of each neuron and neuronal network (3) while promoting neurogenesis and endogenous stem cell growth (4-6). HBOT has also been proven to be a powerful inhibitor of reperfusion injury (7-9), occurring when blood flow is re-established to deprived tissue, commonly seen in global ischemia, anoxia, and even coma (10-12).
Also, undergoing HBOT, blood flow has been seen to be reduced to damaged areas, decreasing inflammation/edema without compromising oxygenation, signaling DNA to effect trophic (growth) tissue changes (14-16), enhancing neutrophil killing ability, and promoting collagen synthesis (17-19). It makes sense, that with such foundational consequences, HBOT therapy can induce neuroplasticity and increase immune function even years after an initial insult (20).