In a clinical trial for fibromyalgia, all of the women tested had benefited from two months of daily treatment using hyperbaric oxygen therapy. The research was carried out at Rice University and institutes in Israel.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain disorder estimated to affect over five million Americans, says The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Approximately 80-90 percent of those who have fibromyalgia are women, though men and children can also be affected.
Fibromyalgia has been found to occur alongside illnesses such as certain forms of arthritis or irritable bowel syndrome. But it also may be related to other conditions that involve fatigue, problems sleeping and cognitive difficulties.
HBOT is a method used to deliver increased oxygen to the tissues. It increases surrounding pressure by two or three times normal air pressure. It is often used for conditions such as an infection, non-healing wounds like burns or diabetic ulcers. It also treats decompression sickness in deep-sea divers.
The study began with 60 women aged 21 to 67 who all had fibromyalgia symptoms for two years, but only 48 women were tested, as a dozen women did not complete the study.
The women were divided into two groups. The first group received 90 minutes of HBOT, receiving pure oxygen at twice atmospheric pressure, five days a week over two months.
They were tested before treatment and after by assessing their tender point count and quality of life. Computer tomography imaging was performed to evaluate their brain activity.
The control group was handled differently than typical placebo groups. They were treated as a crossover control group, where they were first given baseline testing, and retested at the end of the two-month control period.
The crossover control group was then also given two months of HBOT just like the test group, and tested a third time.
The researchers report that both groups benefited from the HBOT treatment, with significant improvement in their pain levels. The women were able to drastically reduce or eliminate their need for pain medication.