Results of the latest clinical trial conducted on patients suffering from fibromyalgia have increased possibilities that the chronic pain could be resolved organically using oxygen therapy. This has caught the attention of many people around the world suffering from the chronic disorder identified by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and tenderness in localized areas of the body. The trial which involved 60 women, all of whom were diagnosed with fibromyalgia at least two years prior, successfully reduced or in some cases, completely eliminated the volunteer’s need for pain medication following therapy given within a hyperbaric oxygen enclosure.
During a previous study on post-traumatic brain injury subjects, researchers at the Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research at the Assaf Harofeh Medical Center and Tel Aviv University, realized that hyperbaric oxygen therapy had the potential to help sufferers with fibromyalgia. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), also known as hyperbaric medicine, is the medicinal use of pure oxygen at a higher level than atmospheric pressure. The required equipment includes a mechanism which can deliver 100 percent oxygen within a pressure enclosure, made out of a stiff but flexible construction. These pressure chambers are mainly used to treat patients with burns, embolisms, decompression sickness, carbon monoxide poisoning and various other conditions.
According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the actual cause of fibromyalgia is still unknown. For its diagnosis, another recent study has identified an RNA-based biomarker. Numerous treatment options extending from lifestyle changes to drugs are being used to ease the patient’s pain, with limited or no success. Fibromyalgia is often accompanied with other rheumatic conditions which include Ankylosing spondylitis (AS), Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE). Classified as a chronic pain syndrome, fibromyalgia is linked to other mental and physical conditions such as sleep disturbance, cognitive impairment, fatigue and irritable bowel syndrome.
More than 90 percent of individuals who are diagnosed with fibromyalgia are middle-aged women. However, children and men can also have the syndrome, with symptoms increasing later in their lives. The disturbing fact is that even today, many people have not even heard about fibromyalgia, though more than three million cases are reported every year in the United States. Apart from that, people who know about it, including doctors and medical practitioners, do not admit that fibromyalgia is a real disorder. The possibility that chronic pain caused by fibromyalgia could be relieved organically by oxygen therapy has the potential to reduce the sufferings of many people around the world and help them live without any dependence on pain-killers.
All the patients who completed the trial received 40 HBOT therapy sessions five days a week, for a period of two months. During the treatment lasting for an hour and a half, patients were exposed to 100 percent pure oxygen at double the atmospheric pressure. The idea behind this type of exposure was to force extra oxygen into the patient’s bloodstream, which will then supply it to the brain. Earlier experiments determined that HBOT activates brain plasticity, which leads to the repair of habitually damaged brain activity. It helps in improving the quality of life for mild traumatic brain injury and post-stroke patients, even when the injury had occurred many years earlier.
Symptoms in approximately 70 percent of the individuals who underwent these trials involved the parts of the brain that interprets pain. These individuals were the ones who displayed the greatest improvement and significant alterations in their brain functioning. Researchers are optimistic about their findings, but they do emphasize that further studies are necessary. HBOT is being used not just for symptomatic improvement in patients suffering from fibromyalgia. The results of this study are significant, as they will enable the researchers in finding the actual cause of the chronic pain caused due to fibromyalgia. The possibility that chronic pain caused by fibromyalgia could be alleviated organically using oxygen therapy has many people around the world hoping that the mystery of this painful disorder could be finally solved.
By Ankur Sinha
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Photos Courtesy of Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research-Creative Commons License