What Is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy? Definition, Facts, Benefits, & Side Effects

What Is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy? Definition, Facts, Benefits, & Side Effects


Nowadays, health innovation and technology offer new alternative treatments to help us improve our quality of life. Among these popular treatments, you probably have heard about Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and how it can benefit your body’s ability to heal naturally. But, are you wondering if these benefits are true? If so, our comprehensive HBOT guide to get all the answers is what you are looking for.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) has garnered wide acclaim not only from medical and scientific professionals but also from sports communities and people who need alternative healthcare therapies. Because of its many benefits for enhancing natural healing processes, HBOT can help individuals grappling with chronic wounds or who are seeking to expedite recovery from sports injuries.

In this article, you will learn the facts about how HBOT works, what to expect from it, and what are its benefits as well as side effects. Whether you are seeking alternative methods for healing wounds, or you are a recovering patient seeking aid, keep reading and discover the essential impact, and effects of breathing oxygen with this innovative therapy.

What Is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?

Defining Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

First, let’s start with what HBOT is. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, or HBOT, is an advanced and non-invasive way to heal. It consists of a special chamber with higher-than-normal pressure, where you breathe in 100% pure oxygen. Breathing pure oxygen like this can do wonders, speeding up the body’s natural healing processes for a variety of issues. HBOT is a popular treatment for athletes looking to bounce back faster, which offers benefits to an even broader public. For example, HBOT is also making a difference in diabetic foot ulcers and particular types of brain injuries, among other conditions. The increasing popularity of HBOT lies in how effective and simple it is, offering a natural oxygen boost that supports healing from the inside out.

In a nutshell, what HBOT does is increase the capacity of your circulatory system to carry oxygen, making it more available for your body’s tissues and healing wounds. Even though HBOT is a safe treatment, it usually requires checking with your health provider to ensure that this treatment is fully beneficial and suitable for you.

Historical Insights and Modern Applications

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy has become a popular treatment in recent years, but as a matter of fact, its benefits have been known for quite some time. Its origins can be traced back to the 17th century when English scientists conducted the first experiments with HBOT pressurized sealed chambers. While their potential was unknown at that time, researchers kept investigating HBOT and its advantages, as well as its side effects.

In the US, the first documented use of hyperbaric oxygen for medical treatment was in 1891, by neurologist Dr. J. Leonard Corning. Corning’s scientific efforts helped workers who built tunnels to heal faster, as they would often experience severe muscle pain and paralysis after working below sea level all day.

Further studies about HBOT kept developing, with even the US Navy conducting research of their own as an aid for decompression sickness in divers, during the 1930’s. At this time, it was also discovered that oxygen circulation through the body could be beneficial in treating carbon monoxide poisoning.

Today HBOT is established as a safe treatment, with a wide range of applications, including decompression sickness, enhancing recovery from plastic surgery, aiding athletes in their recovery processes, and treating chronic wounds that have not responded to other treatments. 

The Science of Healing: How HBOT Works

Oxygen’s Role in Healing

To learn how HBOT works, we need to understand the crucial role of oxygen in our body. Imagine Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy as boosting your body’s intake of this fundamental nutrient. Because, isn’t the air we breathe as important as the food we eat or the water we drink? As oxygen is absorbed by our lungs, instead of our gastrointestinal tract, it is often taken for granted as a nutrient. This may sound strange at first, but let’s explain.

As a matter of fact, oxygen plays a crucial role in the healing process of the human body. The oxygen we breathe helps our organisms kill bacteria, reduce swelling, and promote the growth of new blood vessels in damaged tissues. HBOT enhances these natural processes by delivering oxygen at concentrations much higher than possible under normal conditions, thereby accelerating recovery and healing.

The Hyperbaric Chamber Experience

In normal conditions, a room’s air contains 21% oxygen. But when people enter a Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy chamber, their lungs will breathe air that is 100% oxygen. How does HBOT increase the oxygen in the air? Inside an HBOT chamber, the air pressure is about 2.5 higher than regular air pressure. Because of this, the lungs can absorb more oxygen, getting it into your blood and your circulatory system.

How does an HBOT session work? Let’s explain in detail, so you get a clear picture. The first thing you need to know is that a technical assistant will be with you during the session, to monitor the whole process. To start the session, you will enter an individual hyperbaric oxygen chamber, like the ones we have at P1, and get comfortable in it. These are commonly known as “monoplace chambers”. Once you are inside, the chamber is sealed, and the air pressure is gradually increased to a level higher than atmospheric pressure. This environment, similar to the depths of the ocean, will allow your lungs to absorb more oxygen, which will then get to the blood and be carried throughout the body. This way, the oxygen delivery will reach healing tissues and wounds more efficiently.

An HBOT session typically lasts about 60 minutes, during which patients may rest, sleep, or listen to music. During an HBOT session, you may experience, a slight pressure in your ears, like a fullness or a popping sensation, similar to when you are flying on a plane.

Towards the end of the HBOT session, the technician will start the decompression process, gradually decreasing the chamber’s air pressure.

As HBOT is quite simple and doesn’t require any recovery time after going through a session, after going through the treatment you will be able to return to your usual daily activities right away.

The Multifaceted Benefits of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Now, let’s learn about the benefits that Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy has to offer. As scientific research shows, these include enhanced wound healing, combatting infections, and potentially improving neurological and cognitive functions.

Enhancing Wound Healing

The key to HBOT's effectiveness in wound healing is that it significantly increases the amount of oxygen your blood can carry to the affected tissue. This process is particularly beneficial for chronic wounds, such as those suffered by diabetic patients, where poor circulation impairs oxygen delivery necessary for healing. 

How does precisely HBOT benefit wound healing? When undergoing HBOT, the oxygen-rich blood circulates throughout the patient’s body, reaching the wound site and dramatically improving oxygenation in the tissue. All this stimulates the activity of fibroblasts, the cells responsible for producing collagen and repairing tissue. As a result, this reduces the time needed for the patient to recover.

Another benefit of HBOT for wound healing is that it also reduces swelling around the wound, allowing for better blood flow and faster healing. Imagine a wound that has been stagnant in its healing process suddenly receiving a boost of oxygen, invigorating the healing cells and kick-starting the repair process.

Combating Infections

HBOT also helps your body combat infections, as it also includes direct and indirect antimicrobial effects. The therapy's ability to flood the body with oxygen creates an environment that is inhospitable for anaerobic bacteria, which need low-oxygen settings to develop. By increasing oxygen levels, HBOT directly inhibits the growth of such bacteria, helping to clear infections more effectively.

However, this is not the only benefit that HBOT offers against infections. In addition to this, the oxygen boost enhances the body's immune response, allowing white blood cells to kill bacteria more efficiently. 

This dual action against infections makes HBOT a powerful ally in the treatment of severe infections, where it can sometimes turn the tide by both attacking the infection directly and bolstering the body's own defense mechanisms.

Neurological and Cognitive Improvements

As recent research suggests, HBOT can also improve neurological and cognitive health. This therapy's ability to increase oxygen delivery offers hope for supporting the repair and regeneration of brain tissue, enhancing the brain's plasticity, and reducing inflammation and oxidative stress. This can potentially lead to improvements in speech, motor functions, and overall cognitive abilities.

Even though further research on this subject is needed, HBOT effects could be beneficial for patients recovering from strokes or traumatic brain injuries. By providing a richer oxygen environment, HBOT may facilitate the brain's natural healing processes, leading to noticeable improvements in cognitive abilities, motor skills, and quality of life for affected individuals.

As body motor skills and cognitive abilities appear, a 3D AMS assessment can offer a detailed evaluation of how these improvements translate into movement.

Navigating the Side Effects and Considerations

Understanding the Side Effects

If you are concerned about the possible side effects of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, we have some good news for you: it is quite a safe procedure. Even though most patients don’t experience any negative side effects, if any of these appear, they tend to be mild and temporary. Some side effects of HBOT include:

  • Ear discomfort or pain
  • Sinus pressure
  • Fatigue
  • Temporary myopia

If you are concerned about experiencing discomfort during your HBOT session, then you have nothing to worry about. For you to enjoy a hassle-free session, our tech team at P1 helped us put together these practical HBOT tips:

  • Practice equalizing ear pressure: Swallowing, yawning, or gently blowing with your nose pinched can help alleviate ear discomfort.
  • Drink water before and after your session, to avoid feeling tired.
  • Avoid caffeine and heavy meals before your treatment
  • Follow pre-session instructions carefully.

Who Should Avoid HBOT?

Even though HBOT is a safe and common health practice, there are some situations where it is not indicated. We always recommend checking with your healthcare professional of choice, who is the right person to assess if HBOT can be beneficial for your condition. 

Specific conditions requiring caution include:

  • Lung Conditions: Individuals with emphysema or COPD may benefit from HBOT, but those with severe conditions need clearance from a pulmonologist due to the increased risk of lung-related side effects.
  • Chemotherapy Patients: Those undergoing chemotherapy should consult their oncologist before starting HBOT.
  • Blood Disorders: Patients with certain blood disorders, such as spherocytosis, need to consult with a hematologist before undergoing HBOT.
  • Post-COVID-19 Patients: While HBOT might offer benefits for post-COVID-19 recovery, those with a history of pneumothorax or ongoing breathing difficulties should be carefully evaluated before proceeding with the therapy.

There are specific health conditions that can serve as contraindications to HBOT. Some of these include:

  • People with sinus or ear infections, or who have significant wax buildup.
  • People with a pneumothorax (collapsed lung).
  • Those who suffer from severe claustrophobia.
  • HBOT is not recommended for pregnant women.

How to Access Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Finding a Treatment Center

When looking for an HBOT treatment center, it is important that you feel comfortable with the place and well-informed by the staff. As a first step, at Performance1 we always advise you to get a consultation with your healthcare provider. Your professional expert of choice will check your current health condition, age, and medical history, and carefully assess how the HBOT treatment can be beneficial for you. During this first assessment, you will be able to discuss any medications you are currently taking. This includes all over-the-counter drugs, prescriptions, supplements, and herbal remedies. 

Also, you must communicate to the medical and technical staff any chronic conditions you have, such as diabetes or respiratory issues, which might influence the therapy's effectiveness or your eligibility for it.

Consultation and Costs

Performance 1 technical team is here to guarantee your comfort and safety during your treatment. You are welcome to check out our hyperbaric oxygen therapy services, with the latest technology and well-prepared facilities. Single HBOT sessions start at $100 and we have special offers for packages of 10, 20, or 40 sessions. 

Making an Informed Decision

P1’s Commitment to Your Health Journey

At Performance 1, our dedication goes beyond providing innovative treatments like HBOT. We are committed to supporting everyone through every step of their health journey, offering personalized care and comprehensive support to ensure the best possible outcomes.

As we have seen, Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, with its extensive range of applications and benefits, holds the promise of a healthier, more vibrant life. If your doctor recommended this treatment to you, or you are seeking professional advice before starting your treatment, you are at the right place. At P1 we look forward to guiding you in well-being, so come and join us for a new breath of fresh oxygen like you have never experienced before.

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