At Whitaker Wellness, we’ve been using and extolling the benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy for decades. But the earliest documented use of hyperbaric therapy dates back to 1662, when a British physician treated patients with respiratory conditions in a chamber filled with compressed air. America’s first hyperbaric chamber was built in 1861, and in 1928 Dr. Orval Cunningham constructed a five-story, 900-ton pressurized spherical chamber, where scores of patients could stay for long periods. Criticism by the American Medical Association, however, undermined enthusiasm for hyperbarics, and the “steel ball hospital” was eventually dismantled for scrap metal.Conventional medicine’s interest faded, but research continued. In 1939, the US Navy began administering 100 percent oxygen under pressure—true hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT)—to treat decompression illness from diving accidents. During the next three decades, European doctors discovered that the benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy extended to carbon monoxide poisoning, stroke, radiation injury, multiple sclerosis, wound healing, bone infections, and more.
Although bias among US physicians endures, thousands of scientific papers have been published on hyperbaric oxygen therapy’s benefits for dozens of serious conditions.
Wound- and Injury-Healing Wonder
Cecil came to us in a last-ditch effort to save his leg. Antibiotics, intensive wound care, and amputation of several toes failed to stem a festering diabetic ulcer, and he was told the leg had to go. Within days, the benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy were evident. HBOT coupled with sugar dressings worked quickly and the infected ulcer began to close. His wound eventually healed, and amputation was avoided.
This is not an isolated case. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy benefits wounds of all kinds. When 100 percent oxygen is breathed under pressure, it dissolves in all the body’s fluids and saturates tissues with oxygen. This massive influx reduces inflammation, curbs infection, signals the release of reparative stem cells and growth factors, and boosts production of collagen and new blood vessels (angiogenesis).
More benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy include faster recovery from muscle, ligament, and bone injuries and reduced post-exercise muscle fatigue and soreness—which explains HBOT’s popularity with Michael Phelps, Novak Djokovic, Tiger Woods, Terrell Owens, Darren Sharper, and other elite athletes.
Diabetic ulcers lead to 73,000 amputations annually, and who knows how many serious injuries are sustained every day. Just imagine how many limbs could be saved and how much pain and suffering eliminated with routine use of HBOT.
Another Benefit of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy: Stroke Recovery
Gary made some progress during his stint in a rehab facility following a serious stroke, but he was unable to drive, walk, or even stand without assistance. So he came to Whitaker Wellness for HBOT. By the time he returned home, hyperbaric oxygen therapy’s benefits were clear: His balance, strength, speech, and swallowing dramatically improved, and he no longer required a wheelchair.
Strokes cut off blood flow in the brain. Deprived of oxygen and glucose, brain cells in the immediate area die and those nearby go into “hibernation”—they’re still alive but nonfunctioning. No therapy can raise the dead, but by flooding the brain with oxygen, HBOT provides the energy needed to revive stunned neurons. It also reduces swelling and activates cell regeneration and angiogenesis, which promote the brain’s ability to develop new connections and compensate for injury.
The ideal time to reap the benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy is immediately after a stroke, but that option is rarely offered. Fortunately, HBOT is valuable at any time. Israeli researchers conducted a trial of patients who had enduring deficits from strokes suffered six months to three years earlier. Forty treatments resulted in remarkable improvements in function and quality of life.
Strokes are a leading cause of long-term disability. Don’t all patients deserve a shot at this potentially life-altering treatment?
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Benefits TBIs
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is, hands down, the best available treatment for another common cause of brain damage: traumatic brain injury (TBI). One of our patients Curtis had lingering problems stemming from a TBI sustained in a childhood bicycle accident. At age 22, his parents brought him to the clinic for HBOT and neurofeedback. After treatment he wrote, “Taking on challenges became easy for me. My coordination was immensely better, and I started using my left hand more. This was an amazing opportunity for me.”
Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath is also a proponent of HBOT, based on his own personal experience and his concern about the TBI-related degenerative brain diseases in more and more retired pro football players. Military veterans suffering with TBI or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) rave about HBOT as well.
You’d think neurologists, the Veteran’s Administration, and the National Football League would be on the frontlines promoting the benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy, but that isn’t case—for all the wrong reasons. As Kenneth Stoller, MD, explained in a 2015 article, “HBOT is an efficacious, benign and humanitarian way to affect brain repair but it has not been adopted because it lacks patent protection and has no large corporate sponsors. It has also met interference because other agendas are present be they the protection of the status quo, myopic budgetary constraints, or perceived liability issues.”
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Benefits Nearly Everyone
HBOT relieved N.L.’s post-herpetic neuralgia pain and William’s excruciating diabetic neuropathy. It rapidly healed Stephanie’s facial burns and E.B.’s facelift incisions. Cynthia’s Lyme disease-related problems improved dramatically after 40 treatments, and G.G.’s rosacea cleared up with just one. Liam, a six-year-old with autism, became more social and verbal following HBOT and neurofeedback. Ashley had notable improvements in her balance, sensation, vision, and other symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
This therapy has also been demonstrated to improve quality of life in patients with fibromyalgia, terminate acute migraines and cluster headaches, reverse sudden sensorineural hearing loss, and reduce symptoms of ulcerative colitis. HBOT even has an adjunct role in cancer treatment: It sensitizes tumors to radiation and reduces adverse effects of chemo/radiation.
Whitaker Wellness’s hyperbaric department has treated thousands of patients with this safe, versatile therapy. It can cause uncomfortable pressure in the ears and claustrophobia (other safety issues are rare and overblown), but most patients tolerate it well and enjoy their one-hour sessions watching videos, reading, or simply relaxing.
Don’t expect to hear about the benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy from your doctor; old biases die hard. But for stubborn conditions that don’t respond to conventional treatments, HBOT is a game changer.
Where to Get Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
HBOT is a safe, effective treatment for wounds, strokes, head injuries, and many other conditions.