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Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)

Aaron Baker
Spinal Cord Injury Lifestyle Specialist | Shield HealthCare
09/20/23  11:31 AM PST
hyperbaric oxygen therapy for individuals with spinal cord injury

“Is that a space pod… In your office kitchen?”

“Where’s Aaron?”

“He’s in the kitchen taking a nap.”

These were some typical daily questions asked during my Paralympic cycling journey in 2012. I was napping, sleeping, eating and doing work in a personal hyperbaric chamber. I had learned about this oblong contraption from my olympic cycling coach. He explained how breathing 100% (pure) oxygen while inside the sealed chamber where the air pressure is compressed to levels greater than sea level may help my body recover faster from all the cycling training by:

  • Increasing blood flow.
  • Decreasing inflammation and swelling.
  • Weakening infection-causing bacteria.
  • Increasing the body’s ability to fight free radicals (unstable molecules that can build up in cells and cause damage).
  • Stimulating the growth of new blood vessels.
  • Accelerate muscle recovery.

Wiki: Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) consists of a pressure chamber, which may be of rigid or flexible construction, and a means of delivering 100% oxygen. HBOT is used for many conditions, the therapeutic principle of HBOT lies in its ability to drastically increase the pressure of oxygen in the tissues of the body. This is achieved by an increase in the oxygen transport capacity of the blood. At normal atmospheric pressure, oxygen transport is limited by the oxygen binding capacity of hemoglobin in red blood cells. Because the hemoglobin of the red blood cells is almost saturated with oxygen at atmospheric pressure, this route of transport cannot be exploited any further. Oxygen transport by plasma, however, is significantly increased using HBOT because of the higher solubility of oxygen as pressure increases.

There are several sizes of portable chambers, which are used for home treatment. These are usually referred to as “mild personal hyperbaric chambers”, which is a reference to the lower pressure (compared to hard chambers) of soft-sided chambers.

In the US, these “mild personal hyperbaric chambers” are categorized by the FDA as CLASS II medical devices and requires a prescription in order to purchase one or take treatments. The most common option (but not approved by FDA) some users choose is to acquire an oxygen concentrator which typically delivers 85–96% oxygen as the breathing gas.

Oxygen is never fed directly into soft chambers (Highly Flammable) but is rather introduced via a line and mask directly to the patient. Personal hyperbaric chambers use 120 volt or 220 volt outlets.

For those also managing wound care – A hyperbaric chamber is also great for healing open wounds. You can read more about that here: (www.shieldhealthcare.com/community/wound/2017/12/04/hyperbaric-oxygen-therapy/)

I picked up the alternative therapy again while I was searching for answers for my vertigo. The chiropractic office I am attending has a machine, and after each treatment, I will spend 60 minutes inside the chamber. I usually bring a book or answer emails while laying down. However, if you are not in a rush, it is an amazing time to take a nap or meditate.

When looking into adding a hyperbaric chamber into your recovery or wellness routine, consider the following:

  1. Sedentary for the duration of your use. It is difficult to move around while inside the chamber. You will need to be stationary for some time.
  2. Bathroom use. If you need to use the restroom during a session, make sure to have your supplies or catheters inside the vessel with you as you will NOT be able to exit the compressed chamber quickly. (I bring a twist top bottle into the chamber with me for peace of mind).
  3. This is a great time to get as much water into your system as possible! Add electrolytes to a water bottle to give it an extra boost.
  4. Occupy your time. As I said, use the time wisely – answer work emails, call a family member or friend to catch up, read a book, watch a show on an electronic device, or meditate!

In general, you shouldn’t receive HBOT if you:

  • Have certain types of lung diseases, because of an increased risk for a collapsed lung.
  • Have a collapsed lung.
  • Have a cold or a fever.
  • Have had recent ear surgery or injury.
  • Do not like small enclosed spaces (claustrophobia).

Depending on the diagnosis, use and clinician’s office, this method of treatment may be partially covered by insurance and is worth looking into!

Note: There is no reliable evidence to support HBOT use in autism, cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, asthma, Bell’s palsy, cerebral palsy, depression, heart disease, migraines, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury, sports injuries, or stroke. Furthermore, there is evidence that potential side effects of hyperbaric medicine pose an unjustified risk in such cases.

Always consult your healthcare professional before use.

My motto: leave no stone unturned. In health,

Aaron Baker

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