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Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Shows Potential to Heal Fibromyalgia & PTSD

A novel treatment possibility has emerged, presenting hope for patients with fibromyalgia. Recent studies have highlighted the remarkable potential of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) to substantially enhance symptoms, quality of life, and brain function in individuals affected by this condition. Two specific studies indicate that fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is a neurological disorder often triggered by severe stressors, including traumatic brain injuries, infections affecting the nervous system, and intense emotional stress—such as that experienced by individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including PTSD resulting from childhood sexual trauma.


Remarkably, these studies have demonstrated that a majority of FMS patients can experience symptom reversal through the application of HBOT. What's more, these patients also witnessed significant improvements in their PTSD symptoms and psychological distress! While previous research has established the brain-healing effects of HBOT in cases of stroke, traumatic brain injury, and post-concussive injury, the prospect of its effectiveness in treating FMS and PTSD is truly groundbreaking. Naturally, additional studies are required to validate this data, but the initial research findings are undeniably exciting.

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Dr. Bechor delivered a presentation and shared insights into the distressing experiences encountered by this particular subgroup of patients during their hyperbaric oxygen therapy sessions. Consequently, the research team enlisted the support of a psychotherapist with trauma expertise to assist these patients, offering compassionate adjunctive therapy. Dr. Bechor excitedly recounted how these women experienced a profound transformation over the course of their 60 hyperbaric oxygen treatments. They displayed increased sociability, enthusiasm, and positivity in their lives, while also experiencing a reduction in pain. Additionally, the imaging results revealed remarkable increases in brain activity and the healing of brain fissures. In essence, the psychological distress and pain diminished as HBOT demonstrated its brain-healing potential through imaging evidence.

Dr. Efrati's study reveals significant improvements across various FMS questionnaires, encompassing the widespread pain index, fibromyalgia symptom severity scale, and fibromyalgia functional impairment, as well as multiple domains of quality of life, PTSD symptoms, and psychological distress. The same substantial improvements were observed in the control group after crossover to HBOT. Moreover, brain SPECT imaging following HBOT exhibited a noteworthy increase in brain activity within the prefrontal cortex, orbital frontal cortex, and sublingual area (p < 0.05). MRI-DTI scans revealed improvements in brain microstructure in the anterior thalamic radiation (p = 0.0001), left insula (p = 0.001), and right thalamus (p = 0.001).

Dr. Efrati concluded that HBOT induced remarkable clinical improvement, which correlated with enhanced brain functionality and microstructure in FMS patients associated with complex somatic disorders. The study demonstrated that HBOT stimulates neuroplasticity and rectifies abnormal brain activity in areas connected to pain in FMS patients. Furthermore, this research underscores that HBOT not only alleviates pain but also enhances symptoms and overall quality of life for individuals

Additional Studies

Upon further investigation, I came across several additional studies that provide further support for the potential benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) in treating fibromyalgia. One study proposes that fibromyalgia is a neurological disorder stemming from abnormal nervous system activity, and HBOT can reverse this abnormality [5]. Another study demonstrates that HBOT can improve fibromyalgia symptoms in individuals who have experienced childhood sexual abuse [6].

In summary, these studies suggest that fibromyalgia may be a neurological condition associated with PTSD, particularly when triggered by childhood sexual or physical abuse. As HBOT aids in the healing of the brain, it appears to have positive effects on both PTSD symptoms and the physical manifestations of fibromyalgia.

These findings open up a range of potentially exciting opportunities. The studies indicate that HBOT can:

  1. Improve brain activity

  2. Enhance brain microstructures

  3. Reduce pain

  4. Alleviate anxiety

  5. Diminish PTSD symptoms

  6. Decrease psychological distress

  7. Lessen fibromyalgia symptoms

  8. Improve the overall quality of life for patients

It's important to note that while these studies present promising results, further research is necessary to validate and expand upon these findings. Nevertheless, the potential implications of HBOT for individuals with fibromyalgia and associated conditions are certainly intriguing.

Our Clinical Experiences

In an intriguing coincidence, Bay Area Hyperbarics had the opportunity to treat three patients between the ages of 56 and 64 in 2019. Among these patients, two were females and one was male. Interestingly, all three individuals had experienced multiple concussive events earlier in their lives. Additionally, two of the patients disclosed instances of physical or sexual abuse during their childhood, while one reported childhood emotional abuse. It is important to note that prior counseling had been provided to these patients regarding their childhood experiences. The treatment administered to these patients followed the protocol outlined in Dr. Efrati et al.'s 2018 study, although formal testing was not conducted.

For the purpose of shedding light on the subjective outcomes of our patients' treatment, we are sharing their experiences with their full consent. Each of the three patients reported the emergence of recovered memories during the course of treatment, which were profoundly distressing and contributed to noticeable feelings of depression. Throughout the treatment period, the patients received counseling to address these distressing memories. During follow-up interviews conducted two months after the completion of HBOT treatments, all three patients reported a significant reduction in anxiety levels and a notable improvement in their ability to cope with disturbing memories. Moreover, they expressed a heightened sense of happiness in their daily lives and observed improvements in critical thinking skills, including mathematical capabilities, short-term memory, and the ability to sustain focus. All three patients expressed great satisfaction with the outcomes they experienced, with two of them expressing profound surprise at the positive results they obtained. While it is important to acknowledge that this was not intended to be a formal study, the anecdotal clinical data collected from these patients suggests the need for further research in this area.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Can Diminish Fibromyalgia Syndrome – Prospective Clinical Trial. (By Shai Efrati, et al.)

This study presents compelling evidence supporting the positive impact of HBOT on the quality of life and overall well-being of numerous individuals with fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS). Significantly, it demonstrates, for the first time, that HBOT has the capacity to stimulate neuroplasticity and effectively normalize brain activity in areas associated with pain in FMS patients.

Hyperbaric oxygen treatment of fibromyalgia: a prospective observational clinical study.(By Atzeni F, et al.)

Fibromyalgia (FM) is a complex condition with an unknown cause, characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, disrupted sleep, and often accompanied by neuropsychiatric and cognitive symptoms. Despite available treatment options, the effectiveness in managing all symptoms remains limited. However, emerging evidence suggests that hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) holds promise in alleviating certain aspects of the condition.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Can Induce Neuroplasticity and Significant Clinical Improvement in Patients Suffering From Fibromyalgia With a History of Childhood Sexual Abuse-Randomized Controlled Trial. (By Hadanny A, et al.)

Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS) is a chronic and incapacitating disorder that affects an estimated 2-4% of the population, with a prevalence ratio of 9:1 between females and males. This condition significantly diminishes the overall quality of life. The hallmark symptoms of FMS encompass persistent widespread pain, heightened sensitivity to touch-induced pain, prolonged muscle spasms, limb weakness, neuropathic pain, and muscle twitches.

Fibromyalgia appears to be a neurological disorder that is caused by abnormal activity of the nervous system and that this abnormality can be reversed by HBOT. (By Assaf Harofeh Medical Center)

Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), a disorder characterized as a prime example of central sensitization syndrome, can be triggered by various factors, one of which is childhood sexual abuse (CSA). Recent investigations have presented compelling evidence that hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) can stimulate neuroplasticity and yield positive therapeutic results for individuals with FMS.

Up next, What To Expect During a Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Session

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