How is hyperbaric oxygen treatment used for back pain and neck pain?

Hyperbaric oxygen units have been around for decades but they have only recently been used as a non-surgical treatment option for back pain and neck pain patients. The units were first used to address sickness from decompression after deep water scuba diving.

With hyperbaric oxygen treatment the person lays in a tubular unit which provides a saturation of oxygen to the body. It’s believed that the oxygen reduces muscle and joint inflammation and recovers injured tissues. Osteoporosis is a problem that is thought to respond to hyperbaric oxygen treatment. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is essentially allowing the body to breath 100% oxygen while under increased atmospheric pressure.

Application beyond deep water scuba divers expanded when the units were found to help slow-to-heal wounds, often resulting from diabetes or radiation injury or infections.

For healing of any injury, every cell in the body requires oxygen. The theory behind hyperbaric oxygen units is to increase the amount of oxygen applied to injured or damaged cells that in turn will assist in the body’s healing and in tissue repair.

A National Institues of Health study concluded two months of hyperbaric oxygen therapy increased pain thresholds, physical function, and health-related quality of life, while decreasing tender points and psychological distress in female patients with Fibromyalgia Syndrome after 3 months of treatment. The study provided evidence to suggest that two weeks of hyperbaric oxygen therapy increased pain thresholds and health-related quality of life and decreased disability in patients with myofascial pain syndrome (MPS) at three months post-treatment.

The use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy for back pain is based on the belief that the discs in the back have little blood circulation and become more brittle with age. In addition to blood supply to the disc being limited, the transmission of the necessary nutrients for recovering injured disc tissues are also limited. By providing a higher level of oxygen to the body, it’s believed this can positively affect the health of discs in the spine, especially for those already diagnosed with degenerative disc disease, where discs are already compromised.

The oxygen therapy is also believed to help relieve sore muscles related to back or neck spasms.

Spine Physicians Institute treats back pain, neck pain, herniated discs, stenosis and other spine problems. Patients come to the spine center from across the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Dr. Sethuraman is one of few Mayo Clinic fellowship-trained spine surgeons in the North Texas area. A fellowship is the highest level of medical education in the U.S.

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