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A recent discovery in the world of fibromyalgia is a breath of fresh air – literally. Researchers from Rice University and Israeli institutes have found that, when being treated with hyperbaric oxygen therapy, women suffering with fibromyalgia noticed a dramatic improvement in their condition. The ones who had contracted the disorder after suffering some form of brain trauma experienced the best results. This treatment is being rumored to be a cure for the disorder that has many health professionals scratching their heads.
The simplest way to describe fibromyalgia is to say that the disorder causes chronic pain throughout the body. There is no one single definition for the disorder because of the myriad of symptoms suffered by those who have it. Many people describe fibromyalgia as the feeling that the inside of their body somehow hopped into a time machine and fast forwarded to the oldest age possible, without any actual aging occurring on the outside. The result of this feeling is multiple health complications, like joint stiffness, sensitivity to pain, depression, gastrointestinal distress, and others.
There is no one specific way to characterize fibromyalgia because its sufferers experience a wide range of things. It is a disorder that not many have really heard of, nor do some doctors believe it to be a real disorder. Many people who have it do not look like anything is wrong with them from an outside perspective. With a lot of doctors disregarding it as an actual disorder, other people are led to believe the same, which creates a feeling of distrust. A single cause has yet to be determined for fibromyalgia, but one theory is that it is due to abnormal activity in pain areas of the brain, which is supported by the improvement of patients who underwent oxygen therapy.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been used to treat a number of other conditions. It involves placing the patient in a pressurized chamber of pure oxygen. As the atmospheric pressure is higher than normal, the lungs are able to accommodate a higher amount of oxygen than in ordinary conditions, which the blood then carries throughout the body, ultimately delivering it to the brain. With a higher concentration of oxygen in the blood, healing is promoted throughout the body. In the case of fibromyalgia patients, the discovery of a possible cure truly is a breath of fresh air.
Researchers at Rice University and Israeli institutes gathered 60 women (12 ended up leaving during the trial) who were diagnosed with fibromyalgia and put half through a two month HBOT treatment five days a week, with the other half being a control group. The ones who underwent treatment reported feeling dramatically better – they also found themselves not needing the pain medication prescribed to them originally. A brain scan also showed dramatic improvements as well, as evidenced by a decrease in pain activity. The control group was later given the same two-month treatment and reported the exact pain results.
Researchers mentioned that when the patients were exposed to the HBOT chamber, a higher concentration of oxygen was able to enter their brain and promote healing. It was able to make the brain function better to repair areas that are associated with pain. The treatments were able to provide a better quality of life for the patients. This discovery of a possible cure is a breath of fresh air for doctors and for those who suffer from fibromyalgia.
By Frank Grados
Rice University – Hyperbaric hope for fibromyalgia sufferers
MD Magazine – Diminishing Fibromyalgia Pain One Breath at a Time
Mayo Clinic – Hyperbaric oxygen therapy
Photo Courtesy of Michelle Rivera’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License