What makes this study more than just an exploration of a possible new pain treatment is that the researchers wanted to explore HBOT and its effect on the brain.
Previous studies by researcher Shai Efrati had shown that HBOT affected the ability of the brain to change and relearn new connections, which is called neural plasticity .
HBOT had helped patients with chronic brain impairments from a stroke or mild trauma to improve, even if years had passed after the initiating event.
Efrati's previous research had found that HBOT helped patients who had both some type of brain injury and fibromyalgia.
“Patients who had fibromyalgia in addition to their post-concussion symptoms had complete resolution of the symptoms,” he said.
Efrati, along with Eshel Ben-Jacob, another lead author of the study, set out to explore how HBOT could help patient who had fibromyalgia without a brain injury, and what differences may be needed in their treatment.
“We have learned, for example, that when fibromyalgia is triggered by traumatic brain injury, we can expect complete resolution without any need for further treatment. However, when the trigger is attributed to other causes, such as fever-related diseases, patients will probably need periodic maintenance therapy,” said Efrati.
Use of HBOT to treat those with fibromyalgia is not new. A 2004 study showed it did have success in a small study but they felt that HBOT was helpful to fibromyalgia patients due to increased oxygenated blood flow to tissues.
Efrati is encouraged that their study shows the use of HBOT to treat fibromyalgia is aimed at the actual cause, which is related to brain function and that it can help even those who have had chronic, long-lasting pain symptoms.
He told Rice.edu News that the results of their current study will require further investigation.