Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is currently not approved by the F.D.A. as a treatment for CRPS or RSD. However, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, or HBOT, has continuously shown promising results in studies and test cases in which doctors have recommended HBOT as an alternative form of treatment. Cases in which HBOT has been used to treat CRPS have shown HBOT to reduce the pain and sensitivity associatedwith the disease.
What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a form of treatment that is recommended for many different types of diseases and ailments. The most recognized use of HBOT is to help scuba divers recover from decompression sickness, or the bends. There are currently about fourteen ailments that the F.D.A. has approved HBOT as a treatment for. HBOT is currently considered an “off-list” treatment for CRPS and RSD.
How Does Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Work for CRPS Patients?
HBOT sessions are often called “dives”. During one of these sessions, the patient will enter a chamber that is filled with one hundred percent pure oxygen and pressurized above the normal atmospheric pressure. A session will usually run between fifty and ninety minutes, though the patient will sometimes have “air breaks” to breathe normal air. This decreases the risk that the patient will develop oxygen toxicity. There are different types of chambers used for HBOT. Some chambers are designed for only one
patient, while others are designed for several patients.
HBOT for CRPS Physical Symptoms
HBOT works as a treatment for CRPS/RSD by saturating all body and brain tissues in oxygen. This first relieves any oxygen deprivation that has come from the swelling or tissue damage. After a while in the HBOT chamber, with the effected limb or area receiving oxygen in proper quantity, the circulation may improve and the swelling could begin to decrease.
Like any other form of treatment for CRPS, HBOT results may vary from patient to patient. Some cases show immediate improvement of condition and continued improvement with subsequent treatments. Other cases may not show improvement from HBOT, or may take a few sessions before results begin to show.
HBOT for CRPS Neurological Symptoms
In cases where physical symptoms of CRPS begin to subside as a result of HBOT, continued sessions will begin to work on the core of the disease, which is the central nervous system. While suffering from CRPS, pain is being detected and translated by the sympathetic nervous system, which is a different part of the brain than what commonly responds to pain. This improper response is in part what causes the perception of pain that is out of proportion to the visible symptoms, as well as causing the patient to feel
pain in places where there is no obvious cause. The atmospheric pressure that is being administered while the patient is in the HBOT chamber is a large part of what helps to alleviate symptoms and improve the condition of the patient with CRPS. The atmospheric pressure being administered is measured by the depth below sea level that would provide that amount of pressure. Mild hyperbaric pressure, the equivalent of being eighteen to twenty-four feet below sea level, works primarily on the brain and central nervous system. Pressure that is equivalent to deeper depths works on tissue and bone.
The administration of this mild hyperbaric pressure can help the brain to begin the proper translation of pain by the central nervous system instead of the sympathetic nervous system. This can in turn eliminate the false sensations of pain in body areas or limbs that have not have physical cause for pain. It can also further assist in reducing the sensitivity in the effected limb or area.
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