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Oxygen Therapy Can Help with Fibro Pain

Burning pain. Pins-and-needles tingling. Feeling like someone has repeatedly beaten you with a meat tenderizer. These are all common descriptions of what it’s like to suffer from fibromyalgia.  While living with fibro can be debilitating, oxygen therapy may be a long-sought solution to even the worst fibromyalgia pain.

A recent body of research points toward some promising new treatment options. Cited in several studies, hyperbaric oxygen therapy can diminish Fibromyalgia Syndrome. That’s good news for the roughly 4 million adults in the U.S. diagnosed with this condition.

In this article, you’ll learn:

What causes fibromyalgia?

Medical experts know what triggers fibro flareups (extreme psychological stress, infection, physical trauma, surgery). However, they continue to struggle over exactly what causes this chronic condition, and why some people are more prone than others to developing fibro.  

Researchers do know that more women than men are affected by fibro. They have also learned that if you’re unfortunate enough to grapple with fibro, you also may experience bouts of anxiety and depression, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), tension headaches, and temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ).

No definitive test exists for diagnosing fibro. Instead, physicians usually assign the condition based on your symptoms, a physical exam, and any other extenuating circumstances that may make you more prone to developing it.

Unfortunately, no cure currently exists for fibromyalgia. Several prescription medications are approved for the treatment of the disorder. You also can manage the condition with over-the-counter pain relievers. If you prefer a more natural alternative for fibro pain relief, hyperbaric oxygen treatment (HBOT) may be worth a try.

What is hyperbaric oxygen treatment?

Hyperbaric oxygen treatment isn’t a new thing. Its first documented use was in 1660, when British physician Nathaniel Henshaw pressurized the air inside a small chamber and claimed the device could treat several ills, from respiratory disease to digestive problems. By the 19th century, hyperbaric chambers had grown popular among Parisian elites, who believed that compressed air improved circulation, eased pain, and provided an overall sense of wellbeing. Nevertheless, it wasn’t until the 20th century that oxygen therapy became more commonplace and accepted for treating a variety of conditions, including fibro.

You can get hyperbaric oxygen treatment at select hospitals and treatment facilities in the U.S. that focus on pain management. Regardless of where you seek treatment, you can expect it to be delivered in one of two types of hyperbaric chambers. The first option is a chamber designed to accommodate only you. The alternative is a room designed to treat several people at once. Benefits of the treatment are the same for both methods.

Most hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatments last about two hours. You may need more than one session to get pain relief benefits. Your healthcare team can decide on a treatment protocol that works best for your individual needs.

During your treatment, you’ll receive two to three times the normal air pressure. The increased pressure might make your ears feel like they need to “pop.” Swallowing or yawning can help relieve the sensation. Some people feel absolutely nothing during treatment and may even fall asleep for some or all of the session.

How does oxygen therapy help with fibro?

Researchers are still studying the effects of hyperbaric oxygen chamber treatment on fibromyalgia. The working theory is that increased oxygen flow to the brain and tissues helps promote healing. Fibromyalgia doesn’t directly affect your joints or muscles. However, it skews the way your nerves decode pain and send signals about discomfort to your brain.

If your fibro symptoms were triggered by a traumatic brain injury (TBI), you’re even more likely to find relief with HBOT. Researchers at the Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research at the Assaf Harofeh Medical Center and Tel Aviv University made this discovery during a study involving patients in this category. What they learned was that HBOT induces neuroplasticity, which helps reverse abnormal brain activity in fibro patients.

Do you need a prescription for oxygen therapy?

Yes. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy chambers are classified as medical devices by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As such, you only can receive treatment in them with a valid prescription from your doctor. Likewise, only a medical-grade facility can fill your prescription.

Are there people who should not use oxygen therapy?

Hyperbaric oxygen chambers produce amazing results, but they can be dangerous in the wrong hands. It’s important you only receive this treatment from a facility qualified to monitor you for signs of adverse reactions during your sessions. Here are warning signs your body might give that hyperbaric oxygen therapy may not be right for you:

  • Blurred vision.
  • Chest pain.
  • Coughing.
  • Dizziness.
  • Muscle twitching (face and hands).
  • Nausea.
  • Throat irritation.

In addition, certain medical conditions and other complications preclude some people from safely receiving treatment in an oxygen chamber. If you have a lung disease or have recently had ear surgery or an injury, it’s best to avoid HBOT.

How much does hyperbaric oxygen therapy cost?

Most insurance companies don’t cover the costs of oxygen therapy for fibromyalgia since it’s not FDA approved for the condition. The FDA only cleared hyperbaric oxygen chamber therapy for 14 conditions.

How much you pay out of pocket depends on the number of treatments you need and where you receive them. Some conditions require between 30 and 60 sessions, which can add up to tens of thousands of dollars.

How long can you stay in an oxygen chamber?

How long you stay in an oxygen chamber depends on your individual treatment plan. Some people need as little as 5 minutes while others might require two hours. The length of time you spend in the HBOT depends on your reason for the treatment.

HBOT is the recommended cure for carbon monoxide poisoning because it can reverse the damage CO has done to the cardiovascular and central nervous systems. A person being treated for the illness may need three chamber sessions of equal length within 24 hours to effectively treat their condition.

Someone with fibromyalgia may require 20, 90-minute sessions over three weeks to feel relief from their symptoms. Maintenance HBOT sessions often are prescribed to help patients maintain the effects of treatment.

What else can you do to ease fibro pain?

If your fibro pain manifests itself in the form of achy muscles, some other natural solutions can help. Premiere’s Pain Spray works wonders for giving powerful, temporary relief. The all-natural ingredients can be used up to four times a day to provide a lasting reprieve from fibro discomfort.

Sometimes fibro causes pain and stiffness in your neck, which can trigger tension headaches. Headache ReLeaf Roll-On goes to work immediately when rubbed into the bridge of your nose, forehead, or temples. It’s safe to reapply as often as needed. 

Shari Berg is a researcher, frequent blogger, feature writer, and author of Wars End with Me

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