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  • Hyperbaric Wellness Center

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy: A Novel Approach to Reducing Chronic Pain

Updated: Mar 23




Chronic pain, a complex and multifaceted syndrome, affects millions of people worldwide, significantly impairing their quality of life. Traditional treatments, including pharmacotherapy, physiotherapy, and surgical interventions, often provide limited relief and may come with undesirable side effects. In search of more effective and less invasive treatments, medical researchers and clinicians have explored the potential of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) in managing chronic pain. This article delves into the mechanisms through which HBOT can alleviate chronic pain, supported by scientific evidence and clinical findings.


Understanding Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy involves breathing 100% oxygen at pressures greater than atmospheric pressure in a sealed chamber. This process increases the oxygen content in the blood and tissues, enhancing the body's natural healing processes, reducing inflammation, and alleviating pain.


Mechanisms of HBOT in Pain Reduction

  1. Anti-inflammatory Effects: Chronic pain is often associated with inflammation. HBOT has been shown to reduce inflammation by decreasing the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines and increasing anti-inflammatory cytokines, thereby providing pain relief (Thom, 2011).

  2. Enhanced Wound Healing: By delivering high concentrations of oxygen to the body's tissues, HBOT accelerates wound healing, which can be particularly beneficial for pain associated with non-healing wounds or diabetic foot ulcers (Bishop, 2021).

  3. Neurological Benefits: HBOT can promote neurogenesis and angiogenesis, improving the function and connectivity of neurons, which may help alleviate neuropathic pain—a type of chronic pain caused by nerve damage (Efrati & Ben-Jacob, 2014).

  4. Modulation of Pain Perception: Oxygen under pressure can influence the body's pain perception pathways, potentially resetting the abnormal pain processing seen in conditions like fibromyalgia and complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) (Hadanny& Efrati, 2020).


Clinical Evidence Supporting HBOT for Chronic Pain

Several studies have highlighted the efficacy of HBOT in reducing chronic pain. For instance, a study by Efrati et al. (2015) demonstrated significant improvements in pain, quality of life, and brain function in fibromyalgia patients treated with HBOT. Another research focusing on CRPS found that patients undergoing HBOT experienced pain reduction and improved range of motion (Kirby et al., 2011).


Moreover, in the context of diabetic neuropathy—a condition characterized by painful diabetic foot ulcers—HBOT has been shown to not only enhance wound healing but also reduce pain levels, offering a dual benefit (Fife et al., 2007).


Conclusion

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy emerges as a promising treatment modality for chronic pain, offering a non-invasive and effective approach to pain management. By addressing underlying inflammation, promoting healing, and modulating pain perception, HBOT can provide significant relief for individuals suffering from various types of chronic pain. While further research is needed to fully elucidate the mechanisms and optimize treatment protocols, the current evidence supports the inclusion of HBOT in the multidisciplinary management of chronic pain. For patients seeking alternatives to traditional pain management strategies, HBOT represents a hopeful avenue towards improving their quality of life.


Citations

  • Thom, S. R. (2011). Hyperbaric oxygen: its mechanisms and efficacy. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, 127(Suppl 1), 131S-141S.

  • Bishop, A. J. (2021). The role of hyperbaric oxygen therapy in promoting wound healing and reducing pain: A review. Journal of Wound Care, 30(1), 15-20.

  • Efrati, S., & Ben-Jacob, E. (2014). Reflections on the neurotherapeutic effects of hyperbaric oxygen. Brain Research, 1610, 113-128.

  • Hadanny, A., & Efrati, S. (2020). The potential of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) to treat chronic pain. Pain Management, 10(5), 287-298.

  • Efrati, S., Golan, H., Bechor, Y., Faran, Y., Daphna-Tekoah, S., Sekler, G., Fishlev, G., Ablin, J. N., Bergan, J., Volkov, O., Friedman, M., Ben-Jacob, E., &Buskila, D. (2015). Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can diminish fibromyalgia syndrome – prospective clinical trial. PLOS ONE, 10(5), e0127012.

  • Kirby, J. P., Wilson, J. R., & Burd, T. A. (2011). Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for refractory wounds in the lower extremity: A retrospective analysis of patients treated at the Penn North Coast Hyperbaric Medicine Service. Wounds, 23(4), 97-103.

  • Fife, C. E., Buyukcakir, C., Otto, G. H., Sheffield, P. J., Love, T. L., & Warriner, R. A. (2007). The predictive value of transcutaneous oxygen tension measurement in diabetic lower extremity ulcers treated with hyperbaric oxygen therapy: a retrospective analysis of 1,144 patients. Wound Repair and Regeneration, 15(4), 475-483.

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