HBOT: Treating RSD/CRPS, Not Just Pain

Published on
July 11, 2019

Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), also known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), is the most painful condition a person can experience. With no cure, patients are left to rely on treatment that addresses and suppresses the pain. This leaves many patients reliant on opioid medications or nerve blocks in order to have any quality of life. While these treatment options can provide a band-aid of sorts, they never address the underlying condition. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy, or HBOT, is different. It works to address the underlying issues in the body that contribute to the pain experienced in RSD/CRPS. This lets many patients find complete relief and gives them back their quality of life. Hyperbaric oxygen, or HBOT, actually treats RSD/CRPS and not just the pain!

Opioids and Nerve Blocks Target Pain Receptors


Opioid pain medications work by attaching to opioid receptors on nerve cells in the brain, spinal cord, and other parts of the body. When they attach, they block the pain messages that are being sent to the brain. When the brain does not receive the pain signals, it does not perceive the pain. While this can be effective in some cases of RSD/CRPS, it leaves the patient relying on pills all the time, often leading to addiction. And with the current opioid crisis, many patients are finding their physicians cutting back or eliminating opioid prescriptions, leaving them to search for alternatives.

A nerve block is an injection of medication into the sympathetic nerves and basically work to turn off the pain signals from the nerves to the brain, again blocking the patient’s perception of pain. While the effects of a nerve block can last for months, patients often must return for additional blocks in order to maintain relief.

While some patients do find relief through these treatment methods, they are essentially a band-aid put on an open wound. Why use a band-aid when you can try and close the wound and promote healing? That healing is what HBOT can offer!

What Causes RSD/CRPS Symptoms

To get a better understanding of how HBOT can help RSD/CRPS, let’s take a look at RSD/CRPS does in the body. It is unclear why some patients develop RSD/CRPS after an injury or trauma. But we do understand some of the abnormalities that it causes. Nerve abnormalities found in the small sensory nerve fibers that send pain messages to blood vessels contribute to inflammation and blood vessel abnormalities, as well as contribute to the many pain symptoms patients experience.

As the damage progresses, it can trigger damage in the spinal cord and brain. Blood vessels can dilate or leak fluid into the surrounding tissue, resulting in the swelling and a reddish appearance. In contrast, blood vessels may over-constrict, resulting in white or bluish skin color. Muscle and deeper tissues become starved of oxygen, which results in muscle and joint pain. RSD/CRPS affects the immune system, showing high levels of cytokines, or inflammatory chemicals, in the body.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) is the Answer for Treating RSD/CRPS

Looking at the damage RSD/CRPS causes in the body, it only makes sense that HBOT would be a beneficial treatment option. Let’s look at each complication  of RSD/CRPS and just how hyperbaric oxygen treats it:

  • Blood Vessel Abnormalities and Swelling – During HBOT, the body is flooded with high levels of oxygen. This 100 percent oxygen, under increased pressure, allows oxygen to reach areas where blood flow may be irregular. As the affected areas receive high oxygen concentrations, new capillaries and vessels form, allowing blood flow to return. This increased blood flow and oxygen reduces inflammation and swelling and promotes tissue repair and growth. When this occurs, skin discoloration and sensation associated with RSD/CRPS can return to normal.
  • Nerve Abnormalities – As the blood flow returns, the increased oxygen levels from both the HBOT and normal blood flow promote the formation of new nerve fibers and the repair of damaged fibers, resulting in normal sensory nerve function. When nerves repair and function as they should, pain sensations often decrease or return to normal.
  • Muscle Damage – When HBOT floods the body with increased levels of oxygen, this reduces inflammation in the muscle and promotes muscle tissue repair as well as the growth of new muscle tissue. In patients where muscle weakness or damage contributes to mobility, HBOT is often able to reverse that damage. Many patients formerly wheelchair confined are able to walk again.
  • Brain and Spinal Cord Damage – In RSD/CRPS, damage to the brain or spinal cord can occur due to decreased blood flow. As HBOT delivers oxygen to the body, these damaged areas receive oxygen and begin repair. As HBOT also promotes new blood vessel growth and increased blood flow, areas will continue to receive oxygen that may have been blocked due to damage.
  • Impaired Immune System – Increased levels of oxygen associated with HBOT work to normalize the immune system. It promotes a reduction in the inflammatory cytokines in the body and promotes a healthy immune system.

To learn more about how hyperbaric oxygen therapy gives hope back to RSD/CRPS patients, visit HERE.

Treating RSD/CRPS with HBOT Shows Success

Man preparing for Hbot

Dr. Spiegel has found great success treating RSD/CRPS patients with the use of HBOT. He is an expert in the treatment, with many patients coming in from all over the country. He finds that many patients regain normal sleep patterns within just a few treatments. Skin color and swelling return to normal within four or five treatments. By the tenth treatment, most patients see a significant reduction in pain levels. After the normal course of 20 to 30 treatments, many find that their pain levels are gone or reduced to an average of 2/10 on the pain scale. In addition, many patients report that brain fog lifts and cognitive function improves. With physical therapy, many are able to improve muscle strength and range of motion.

While every patient is different, HBOT has shown great success. It offers a quality of life back to patients with RSD/CRPS. By treating the underlying causes of the condition rather than just masking the symptoms, HBOT can truly make a difference.

If you suffer from RSD/CRPS and want information on HBOT and how it can give you your life back, contact our office today. We will set up an initial consultation with Dr. Spiegel. You can also visit our contact page and fill out a form HERE and we will contact you with more information.