Fibromyalgia is a condition that affects millions of people around the country every year, seriously impacting their productivity and the quality of their life. It is associated with chronic musculoskeletal pain and heightened sensitivity to pressure. It might also cause persistent fatigue, insomnia, mood swings, and memory related issues. The incidence of fibromyalgia is quite widespread in the US and it has been found that the disease tends to disproportionately affect women. For every man suffering from fibromyalgia, at least nine women develop the condition, leading to a skewed gender ratio of 9:1 when it comes to the disease. According to research, fibromyalgia increases the patient’s sensitivity to pain signals by affecting the part of the brain that processes the sensations of discomfort and pain.
An Overview of Fibromyalgia
The condition can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, infection, physical or psychological trauma, surgery, etc. Even without a definite trigger, symptoms of fibromyalgia can sometimes accumulate over time until they become unbearable for the patient. Women are, on average, more likely to be at risk of developing fibromyalgia than men, although the condition can affect both genders with equal severity. Irritable bowel syndrome, tension headaches, depression, and anxiety are some of the conditions that often accompany fibromyalgia in patients.
Some of the symptoms commonly associated with fibromyalgia include a dull but persistent ache on both sides of the patient’s body. The feeling of fatigue and constant exhaustion is also common amongst fibromyalgia patients , who often wake up tired even after a good night’s sleep. Sometimes, fibromyalgia also manifests in conjunction with other sleep related disorders such as sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome. Fibromyalgia might also impair a person’s ability to concentrate on an activity or pay attention to mental tasks.
Hyperbaric Therapy for Fibromyalgia Treatment
A clinical trial conducted by the researchers of Rice University in Texas, in collaboration with two prominent Israeli research institutes, has found that fibromyalgia can be effectively managed and treated with hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT). The 48 female fibromyalgia patients who had participated in the program experienced significant improvements after two months of consistent HBOT sessions.
Brain scans conducted before and after the therapy helped verify the theory that fibromyalgia led to abnormally heightened pain sensitivity. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy treats fibromyalgia by enhancing the flow of oxygen to the malfunctioning parts of the brain and thus helping diminish the abnormal response to pain signals. The goal of the clinical trial was to measure and evaluate the impact of regular hyperbaric therapy sessions on the brain activity of fibromyalgia patients. The effect of HBOT on the major symptoms of fibromyalgia, if any, were also to be measured and recorded.
For the trial, patients were divided into two groups – the treated group and the crossover group. While the treated group was evaluated twice – before and after the administration of hyperbaric oxygen therapy – the crossover group was evaluated three times. These included an evaluation at baseline, one after a control period during which no treatment was administered, and finally after a session at a hyperbaric therapy center.
The researchers reported that the administration of pure oxygen during hyperbaric therapy sessions resulted in significant improvement in the patients, who experienced a remarkable reduction in their symptoms over the course of a few months of hyperbaric therapy. In all, the trial involved 40 sessions at a hyperbaric therapy center, with each session lasting for exactly ninety minutes.
The patients, aged between 21 and 67, also reported significant improvements in the overall quality of their life, brought about by hyperbaric therapy. It was revealed that their sessions at the hyperbaric therapy center led to rectification of the aberrant brain activity previously observed in the patients, which had caused their hypersensitivity to pain signals.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
Hyperbaric therapy is a form of alternative treatment that is used by medical professionals around the world to treat a variety of medical conditions. Hyperbaric therapy helps in the regeneration of healthy red blood cells, which in turn enhances the natural healing resources of the human body. Hyperbaric therapy also helps repair peripheral and cranial neural fibers, hasten brain angiogenesis, regenerate axonal white matter, and stimulate endogenous neural stem cells. Thus, HBOT can effectively treat many physiological and neurological conditions, including fibromyalgia.
By participating in the HBOT sessions in a consistent manner, it was observed that the patients suffering from fibromyalgia could drastically reduce their reliance on pain medication and other types of drugs. According to the researchers, HBOT sessions administered by hyperbaric experts at a reputed hyperbaric therapy center can also lead to increased neuroplasticity, which can help rectify the abnormal activity in the brains of fibromyalgia patients. Therefore, it can be said that the clinical trial at Rice University, Texas, offers new hope to fibromyalgia sufferers around the world.