Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy - What Is It?
Have you ever heard of “the bends?” It’s when divers come up too fast and the quick change in pressure causes bubbles to form in the body. They usually end up bending over in pain, or having “the bends.” It’s also known as decompression sickness.
Whether or not you love to dive, there may be other conditions you have that can be treated or soothed through hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT).
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy exposes you to almost 100% pure oxygen in a pressurized chamber for up to two hours per session. While it is commonly used for recovery from trauma, many people are using it as a biohacking tool to optimize their health.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Benefits
The benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy start with how it maximizes oxygen intake into your body. When you get this extra dose of oxygen, your body’s ability to battle bad bacteria increases. This extra oxygen also helps induce stem cell production and growth factors.
There is some controversy over what benefits HBOT has for certain conditions and situations.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved HBOT for the following conditions:
- Decompression Illness/Sickness
- Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
- Heat/Fire Burns
- Air or Gas Embolism
- Brain/Sinus Infections
- Skin Grafts
- Radiation Injury (think Cancer Treatment)
- Low Blood Flow in the Arteries
- Bone Marrow Infection
- Infections from Soft Tissue Necrosis
- Anemia from Harsh Blood Loss
- Crush Injury Relief, like with Acute Traumatic Ischemia
- Gas Gangrene
All of the extra oxygen can help get rid of air bubbles in your system caused by shock, but it’s also great for blood, bone, and skin conditions.
What Are Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Sessions Like?
When you go in for an HBOT session, you will either be in a single-person unit that’s kind of like a clear plastic chamber, or you will share a hyperbaric oxygen room with many other people. If you are in the multi-person HBOT unit, you will most likely either sit or lie down and use a mask or clear hood to receive your oxygen. Now, there is even an in-home treatment where a physician will bring a portable HBOT chamber to you!
You’ll have to take off your jewelry and/or metal accessories, wash off certain skin care products, and leave your phone outside of the chamber.
The licensed practitioner will begin the session by increasing the air pressure in the chamber or room by two or three times the normal amount of air pressure. Therapy can last up to a few hours per session, and it normally takes multiple sessions to see results - depending on what you are trying to solve.
Is HBOT Worth The Price Tag?
For FDA-approved HBOT treatments, your insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid most likely have hyperbaric oxygen therapy as an option.
For those without insurance, it can be expensive. To gain the full benefit, you will most likely attend many sessions. Sessions can start at $250 a piece or more, and an entire HBOT package could even cost you as much as $10,000 depending on your provider.
Is it worth the price? It is if your life depends on it!
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Claims: FDA and Biohacking
The FDA claims that hyperbaric oxygen therapy is officially approved for certain medical conditions (see above). They worry that certain biohacking service providers may make patients miss out on proven therapies for their condition or that HBOT could even worsen their condition.
For example, some people claim that HBOT can help relieve or cure depression. Studies are still being conducted, but it looks like so far, the benefits of HBOT are, if anything, similar to psychotherapy.
Also, some clinics or therapy centers have claimed that HBOT can help with AIDS, cancer, and more. However, there isn’t a lot of scientific evidence yet to say whether any of this actually works.
Biohacking is a great way to push the boundaries of conventional wisdom and gives us all options to improve our lives that may not fit inside the norm. As with anything involving our health and bodies, it’s always best to consider things with your doctor or health professional.
Never be afraid to try something new, but always know the risks!
XO - Serena