a syringe and a written fibromyalgia diagnosis

HBOT and Fibromyalgia

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy shows promising results in the treatment of fibromyalgia. One theory is that hyperactivity in the pain processing pathways of the brain contributes to fibro. Additionally, there is also decreased activity in the pain inhibiting pathways.  HBOT treatments deliver 100 percent oxygen under pressure that helps increase cell metabolism, reduces cell death, reduces oxidative stress, increases neurotrophin and nitric oxide levels, and promotes the growth of neural stem cells. HBOT induces neuroplasticity and corrects abnormal brain activity in fibromyalgia patients.

Research, HBOT, and Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia word cloud

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate as many as four million adults, or about two percent of the population in America, lives with Fibromyalgia.

A 2015 study looks at the effects of HBOT on fibromyalgia patients. The study looks at 48 women with a fibro diagnosis for over 2 years. Researchers divided the participants into two groups. One was the main treatment group and the other a crossover group. The treatment group received two months of HBOT treatments, for a total of 40 sessions. Patients received no other form of treatment. The crossover group received no treatment for the first two months and then received 40 HBOT treatments over two months. The patients all reported a significant improvement in pain and a reduction in pressure points. All patients agreed that they experienced a significant improvement in their quality of life.

However, the most significant findings of this study came from SPECT images. Researchers found that patients with fibro experience elevated activity in the somatosensory cortex and reduced activity in the frontal, cingulate, medial temporal, and cerebellar cortices. After HBOT, SPECT scans showed reduced activity in the posterior brain and elevated activity in the frontal lobes, bringing brain activity back to relative normal. In short, HBOT was able to help restore normal brain function to these fibro patients.

A 2018 study published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases looks at the effects of HBOT on fibromyalgia patients. The study enrolled 33 female patients with fibro and they each received 20 HBOT sessions. The study found all patients showed significant improvement with all their symptoms, including pain.

If you live with fibromyalgia and would like to learn more about how HBOT improves your quality of life, give our office a call today or click HERE to fill out our contact form and one of our office staff will get back to.  

What is Fibromyalgia?

A woman in bed with pain

Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain. For a long time, trigger points were the main diagnostic requirement. These are nine pairs of locations on the body that, when exposed to pressure, experience extreme pain. In order to receive a diagnosis, you needed to have 11 of these points, however, a new understanding of the condition and the fact that pain is not always constant, For that reason, a diagnosis no longer requires positive trigger points. Doctors now focus more on the symptoms to confirm fibro. They look for widespread pain lasting longer than three months, the presence of additional symptoms, and ruling out any other possible underlying medical conditions. While fibro can affect men, women, and children, women account for 75 to 90 percent of all cases.

Research shows that fibro may alter certain chemicals in the brain (neurotransmitters), making them responsible for increased pain signals. Fibromyalgia also appears to run in families, so there is the possibility of a genetic mutation. Symptoms of fibromyalgia often start after a serious illness, infection or trauma, pointing to a possible trigger to activate the condition.

Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

A woman holding her shoulder in pain

While the main symptom of Fibromyalgia is severe, widespread chronic pain, additional symptoms do occur. These additional symptoms include:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Fibro fog – problems with thinking, memory, and concentration
  • Severe headaches
  • Tingling in the hands and feet
  • Pain in the jaw, often associated with temporomandibular joint syndrome, or TMJ
  • Digestive issues such as irritable bowel syndrome or IBS
  • Morning stiffness
  • Painful menstrual periods

Traditional Treatments of Fibromyalgia

There is no cure for fibromyalgia, therefore treatment focuses on managing the symptoms and improving quality of life. Medications, such as over-the-counter pain relievers, antidepressants, and anti-seizure drugs help reduce pain, treat nerve issues, and aid in sleep. In addition, treatment options such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, and counseling provide benefits. While these treatments can provide relief, many patients continue to suffer and are always looking for new options.

While hyperbaric oxygen and HBOT are not currently FDA approved for the treatment of fibromyalgia, it is an off-label treatment alternative. It demonstrates great results when treating fibro patients. If you would like to learn more about how HBOT can help you, give our office a call at 727.787.7077 to schedule an initial consultation. Dr. Spiegel and his team will go over your medical history and help create a treatment plan that works for you.