Hyperbaric Oxygen Tx for Fibromyalgia: Healing or Hype?

Image courtesy of the Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research
Image courtesy of the Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research

Women with fibromyalgia may benefit from hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), as a proof-of-concept study in PLOS ONE has shown that it led to changes in brain activity and improvement in fibromyalgia symptoms and quality of life.

Researchers at Rice University and institutes in Israel conducted a prospective crossover clinical trial to evaluate the effect of HBOT on symptoms and brain activity in fibromyalgia in 48 women ages 21–67 who had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia at least two years prior. Participants were randomized to receive 40 HBOT treatments five days a week for two months or a two-month control period of no treatment followed by HBOT treatment. The 90-minute HBOT treatment exposed the patients to pure oxygen at two times the atmospheric pressure.

RELATED: Higher Disease Burden Seen With Fibromyalgia Than Chronic Widespread Pain

HBOT led to similar significant improvements in both groups after treatment; no significant changes in brain activity and symptom relief were detected during the non-treatment period in the crossover group. The treatment had beneficial changes in the brain activity of specific Brodmann areas (BAs) known to have abnormal activity in patients with fibromyalgia, significant amelioration of all fibromyalgia symptoms, and significant improvement in quality of life. In addition, HBOT led to a significant decrease in use of pain medications, which could be due to the changes in brain activity that alleviated fibromyalgia symptoms.

Follow-up studies are now needed to assess the durability of the HBOT effects on fibromyalgia symptoms and optimize pressure and/or oxygen levels.

For more information visit Rice.edu.

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