Many people are apprehensive about swimming, scuba diving, riding an airplane, or other situations that cause intense changes in pressure. Aside from causing disorientation, rapid pressurization or depressurization can cause serious conditions like DCS.
Decompression sickness, also known as DCS, aerobullosis, or “the bends” afflicts people who surface too quickly when scuba diving. It causes divers to feel joint and muscle pain from bubbles that form in the blood and tissues. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can help with DCS, among other ailments. Time inside a hyperbaric chamber can speed up the healing process by improving circulation and helping fight infections.
What is a hyperbaric chamber?
A hyperbaric chamber is a vessel that is about three feet across and eight feet long. It is big enough for a patient to stay in comfortably and enter and exit without much trouble. During a hyperbaric treatment, a patient can watch TV, read, do Sudoku, or listen to music—sessions last up to two hours, so patients will need to entertain themselves.
Oxygen therapy seems like a novelty, but it has been around for nearly 350 years. Hyperbaric chambers used to be restricted in the United States. Today, though, specialists conduct about 30,000 treatments daily, all over the country.
How does hyperbaric oxygen therapy work?
This kind of treatment enables the body to absorb more oxygen. It saturates the patient’s blood plasma with the element, pushing red blood cells into the damaged tissue and prompting it to heal. Aside from this, it also enhances the white blood cells’ ability to fight infections, speed up wound repair and recovery, and encourage blood vessels to grow.
This increased oxygen supply aids in healing burns, diabetic wounds, gas gangrene, and other conditions. It also helps alleviate air embolism, stroke, and cerebral edema. Note, though, that HBOT is not a solution to all ailments. You need to speak with an oxygen therapy specialist to see if this treatment suits you.
What should I know about undergoing this treatment?
All patients have different experiences of hyperbaric therapy. Some people feel like staying in a monoplace chamber is like being in a coffin. Meanwhile, others find the experience enjoyable. If being in confined spaces makes you anxious, you can speak to your technician or specialist about it; they can help you calm down and even administer mild sedatives in extreme situations.
Once you’ve prepared, you can change into scrubs. If the facility does not offer it to patients, make sure to wear cotton clothing. Once in the facility, make sure you do not bring a lot of things into the chamber. Makeup, lighters, matches, cigarettes, hair oil or hairspray, contact lenses, hearing aids, and watches are all prohibited in hyperbaric chambers, so make sure you don’t have these items on you when you enter.
The technician will then help you settle in; depending on the type of chamber, you will either be lying down or sitting on a chair. If your facility uses a monoplace chamber, you will lie down before the treatment begins, and the technician will roll your bed into the space. If you have a multiplace chamber, you can sit on a chair or lie on a bed.
When the oxygen therapy starts, you will feel a fullness in your ears like the kind you feel when you are in an airplane. When the pressure increases, you will start to feel a sense of euphoria. If you do not want to watch or read, you can nap or meditate while waiting.
Towards the end of the session, the technician will slowly release the air and depressurize the chamber. You will feel your ears pop again as the pressure goes back to normal.
Hyperbaric treatment is one way to help treat aerobullosis. This procedure speeds up the healing process from this diver’s disorder; it helps alleviate joint pain, headaches, and other symptoms from rapid depressurization. Apart from DCS, time in a hyperbaric chamber helps improve diabetic wounds, gas gangrene, and several other conditions.
At Valley Health and Hyperbarics, we provide high-quality hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Dr. Jo Feingold, our medical advisor, is a hyperbaric oxygen therapist who specializes in general wellness. We are in Suffern, NY; request an appointment today or get in touch with us for inquiries!