Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Decreases Chronic Pain Associated with Fibromyalgia
A chronic complaint commonly associated with musculoskeletal pain fatigue, non-restorative sleep, and other symptoms impacting on mood and memory, Fibromyalgia affects approximately ten million Americans. Globally, estimates range between 3% and 6%, predominantly women.
Enduring pain disorders, and Fibromyalgia specifically, result from a defective nervous system. Fibromyalgia is not congenital; instead, symptoms develop over time, often as a reaction to external influences including infection, physical trauma, or emotional factors. However, it is unclear and frequently impossible to determine what activates the condition.
HBOT as Therapy for Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia doesn’t directly impact the muscles or joints; rather, it affects the manner nerves interpret and communicates pain messages to the brain. Consequently, pain thresholds are much lower, complicating effective treatment. In the absence of physical therapy such as fixing a torn tendon, the standard therapeutic reaction is to treat these ailments pharmaceutically. However, non-prescription pain relievers aren’t sufficiently strong enough to effectively provide relief. Prescription pain relievers, including opioids, decrease in their effectiveness over time and carry many other risks, not least addiction.
In the search for non-pharmaceutical solutions, hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is being investigated as a potential treatment for chronic pain complaints. The Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH), an autonomous agency charged with sourcing, reviewing, and précising clinical research into new medicines and medical devices. Recently, the Agency published a detailed study HBOT as a potential therapy for chronic pain in adults.
The resultant article “Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for the Treatment of Chronic Pain: A Review of Clinical Effectiveness and Cost-Effectiveness,” CADTH examined multiple studies. Sixty women with Fibromyalgia were examined in one study. They were treated with HBOT sessions of five days 12 weeks. It determined that HBOT therapy elevated pain increased pain thresholds and other quality of life indicators whilst lowering the quantity on of tender points and emotional stress. Following treatment, single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) imaging showed that parts of the brain that had previously revealed abnormalities had normalized.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) a potential treatment for chronic pain.
A different study assessed 30 myofascial pain syndrome sufferers — an accute pain disorder affecting the muscles and connective tissues. These patients were treated with HBOT sessions five days per week for only a fortnight. Notwithstanding this brief timeframe, HBOT boosted pain thresholds whilst decreasing physical and mental dysfunctions.
The data was uncertain concerning the cost benefits. Though the CADTH report was equivocal as to the cost-effective of HBOT over prescription pain killers, there was much greater certainty that HBOT is the safer of the two.
The limited period of these studies of HBOT therapy means that more extensive research is needed to explore further potential and confirm the conclusions. Early indications, however, were very encouraging.