What Is Hyperbaric Therapy?

Hyperbaric Therapy, which has frequently been referred to as HBOT or hyperbaric oxygen therapy, is a specific medical therapy where the pressure inside the atmosphere of a hyperbaric chamber is increased which will then permit more oxygen integrated and used within the body.

For neurological and physiological conditions, the implications of this therapy are a direct response to inflammation, energy transport, and oxygen transport. By providing oxygen under pressure, hyperbaric oxygenation allows the body to readily absorb oxygen to combat these underlying conditions that contribute to physical or neurological deficit .

The system by which oxygen molecules are compressed and immersed into the numerous body fluids is one of the many phenomenons of hyperbaric oxygen therapy. In nearly every case the inflammation obstructs suitable circulation to the affected neurological tissues further enhancing the need for oxygen. The compressive pressure of hyperbaric treatment constricts and works to resolve inflammation, imbuing the body in a liquid blanket of oxygen through the plasma and cerebral-spinal fluid s. Oxygen Flow is improved, and the body is assisted in pushing out the additional inflammatory fluids desired to heal.

Energy transport in the cells is yet another factor that often affects many conditions. In particular, these conditions worsen when the energy producers, the mitochondria, are hampered from fully function- mg. The Mitochondria in the human body are very responsive to any fluctuations in oxygenation levels in the body. When a lack of oxygen is detected, the body automatically slows its processes, conserving its energy for the most vital of parts, for as long as possible. A chronic oxygen-deficit problem will lead to dire loss of body function in the most affected areas.

Hyperbaric oxygen again boosts the body's own energy-making faculty, not only through oxygenation, but through a process which allows healthy mitochondria to proliferate and compensate for loss of mitochondrial function in the affected parts of the body and brain.

The transport of oxygen through the human body is vital to success and well-being. On a cellular level, oxygen reaches the bodies extremities by way of the microcirculatory system of blood and capillaries. But when the flow of these two are slowed down or even stopped by an injury such as soft tissue damage limited circulation of the blood and capillary will follow forcing the body to use fluids like plasma that flows throughout the body, including injury sites, to carry oxygen to the ailing tissues. Under normal barometric pressure, the plasma carries some oxygen.

However, when Hyperbaric Oxygen is introduced into the body, not only do the existing blood and intact circulatory vessels benefit from the boost in oxygen, but the plasma now becomes saturated with oxygen that can reach wounds and neurologically dormant areas waiting for needed oxygen to begin the healing process.

How Does Hyperbarics Heal?

Hyperbaric Therapy is a specialized therapy that uses an increase in the atmospheric pressure to allow the body to incorporate more oxygen into its blood cells, blood plasma, cerebral-spinal fluid, and other body fluids.

At sea level we have 1ATA (14.7psig) which allows our lungs to absorb oxygen from the air. If we go to higher altitudes, the pressure drops and we the lungs would not be able to absorb the oxygen from the air. This is why oxygen masks drop in an airplane at high altitudes - to increase the 02 content due to the lack of pressure. The exact opposite happens when you go to lower altitudes (below sea level). There the pressure is greater (above lATA) and now the lungs can more easily absorb the oxygen.

Consider this analogy. A bottle of soda-pop is a pressurized vessel. In the bottle we have a liquid. We then have 'carbonation' (the gas) and also pressure. When the bottle is sealed we do not see bubbles. The moment we twist off the cap and break the seal, we hear the 'swish' and the pressure is released in the bottle. Now, all of a sudden we see the formation of bubbles in the bottle and as time goes they grow and float to the top of the liquid. Certainly the pressure in the bottle is quite high and the nature of the gas (carbonation) is a different than the 21% 02 in the ambient air. However the concept is the same. In the hyperbaric chamber, as the pressure goes up, more 02 from the air is 'pushed' into the fluids of the body.

The healing occurs when a severely compromised tissue in the body begins to receive oxygen, and blood circulation to the tissue resumes. Note: A damaged tissue may not have been receiving enough blood for it to heal, due to a lack of blood circulation caused by the initial trauma. Here lies the healing magic of Hyperbaric Therapy. Inside the pressurized chamber, the story changes. The injury site now begins to receive a healing dose of oxygen through the surrounding body fluids and plasma-even if the blood supply to the tissues are compromised. Furthermore, to boost the oxygen concentration in the chamber, supplemental oxygen may be added into the chamber during treatment. As explained before, this oxygen will become infused into the numerous types of liquids in the body-blood, plasma, cerebral fluids.

Hypobaric vs. Hyperbaric

Hypobaric chambers are finding increasing use as a means of improving athletic performance. In a hypobaric environment, an ascent to higher altitude is simulated. Generally, symptoms of hypoxia ensue and the body begins to try to acclimate to the new oxygen deprived condition.

Q: What is the human body's adaptive mechanism designed to counteract extended mild hypoxia?

A: Increasing the quantity of red cells in the blood, aerobic performance is increased.

Thus, athletes sleep in hypobaric type chambers as part of their train- ing regimen, to gain more oxygen-bearing red blood cells, cells that will boost performance, generally right before competition.

Pilots, military and civilian, also train to acclimate to altitude changes during flight. By simulating chamber ascents to altitudes of 10,000 feet (and even to 43,000 ft with sudden rapid drops to 25,000ft for fighter pilots), pilots and crew can learn to recognize hypoxic symptoms and adjust their oxygen uptake accordingly. This is especially important when flying aircraft that is not pressurized to compensate for the lack of air pressure, especially those who fly aircraft in excess of 10,000 feet. Oxygen equipment is required in these environments.

Hyperbaric chambers do just the opposite in pressure; they simulate a descent from sea level. Whereas the air becomes "thinner" with molecules of gas in a hypobaric environment, the air becomes more compressed with molecules in a hyperbaric chamber.

In fact, the saturation of gas boosts the body's uptake of oxygen, instantly allowing all cells, tissue and fluids to become saturated with the gas (presumably oxygen) in the environment.

Q: What is the human body's adaptive response to hyperoxia?

A: An increase in energy metabolism (mitochondrial genesis), increased production of blood vessels and capillaries (angiogenesis), a reduction of cell death (apoptosis), dissolution of liquid in the body (edema), a saturation of the plasma with oxygen. In addition, the increase in oxygen triggers the body's natural immune response to oxidative stress.

Athletes use hyperbaric chambers to boost their oxygen saturation levels, to heal injuries (sprains, swelling, lactic acid build up), to recover for and in anticipation of competitive performance.

In many cases, when the sports venue takes place at a higher altitude than that of the traveling team, hyperbaric oxygenation gives the athlete (or anybody) the oxygen reserve (a buffer, really) to quickly acclimate quickly to the oxygen depleted environment of the higher altitude.

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