Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy


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H3 Hyperbaric Chamber

When patients experience a “dive” in the hyperbaric chamber they have a large window for looking out while they relax.

Hyperbaric Therapy – the words sound a little space-age, right?

Spending time in a hyperbaric chamber seems like an event that might occur after engaging in warp drive travel. However, taking “a dive” in a hyperbaric chamber isn’t new at all.

Mild Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (MHBOT) is defined as the therapeutic use of oxygen at a point higher than atmospheric pressure. The effects of pressurized oxygen have been studied as far back as the mid 1800s but it wasn’t until the mid-1950s that therapeutic uses became more common. Initially used to treat decompression sickness, or “the bends,” in SCUBA divers who surfaced too quickly, the therapy has been applied more widely each year as technology, and an understanding of our bodies, advances.

Chambers were initially hard-sided compartments that were pressurized to fairly high levels, addressing the severe effects of decompression sickness. However, when patients were exposed to the much lower levels of pressurization, around 2 to 4.5 pounds per square inch (psi) or 1.3 atmospheres, the therapeutic application of HBOT increased greatly.

Commercial Photography by Pettepiece Photography, Olympia, Tacoma, Seattle, Portland

Inside the chamber

The mild pressure, via compressed air, is used in a soft chamber made of heavy duty fabric where the patient wears an oxygen mask delivering 95% pure oxygen. This type of mild hyperbaric therapy is intended for use by people suffering from chronic conditions, not an acute situation such as “the bends.”

“I want my patients to understand the stresses our bodies undergo each day simply by breathing the polluted air in our environment and drinking the water from our taps,” Pfeifer explains. “I work with each individual to assess what it is that is their biggest health challenge and then to create a plan to help them feel better. In most cases, that plan includes the use of hyperbaric therapy as its benefits are far reaching.”

What are the benefits? As with any therapy of this nature, the impact is going to vary from person to person. However, Pfeifer explains that the basic premise of MHBOT is consistent. “Oxygen under pressure is so much different than it is when we breathe it out of the normal atmosphere. The increased pressure allows blood and other liquids in the body to absorb additional oxygen. This means the tissues, cells, and organs of the body can take in more oxygen. Increased oxygenation promotes healing and increases healthy cell function.”

H3 Hyperbaric Chamber

When patients experience a “dive” in the hyperbaric chamber they have a large window for looking out while they relax.

MHBOT has been widely used in sports medicine for years. The increased oxygenation of the body allows for increased circulation to damaged and inflamed tissues. Treatment in a hyperbaric chamber after injury can decrease swelling and shorten healing time.

In the same way that HBOT can address an acute injury with swelling reduction and improved healing, wounds are also shown to improve quickly when treated with mild HBOT. The increase of oxygenated blood to the wound site speeds the healing of the damaged tissues and patients see improved recovery times. This concept is being applied to many different healing situations including post-surgical care, particularly plastic surgery where the delicate tissues of our largest organ, our skin, are affected.

Pfeifer stresses that he prefers to work in conjunction with patients’ primary care physicians to ensure treatments are complimentary. “My ultimate goal is to help people feel better and I believe that hyperbaric treatments have a place their overall healing,” shares Pfeifer.

Spend 60 minutes in a hyperbaric chamber.  You can take a book, your phone, or even a laptop into the chamber with you, although Pfeifer encourages people to simply relax, even sleep.  “A hyperbaric session typically leaves people feeling refreshed and energized,” Pfeifer shares.  “They often report improved mental clarity but also an increased motivation to live a healthier lifestyle, eat better, and have a better quality of sleep.”

Please note: Hyperbaric Chamber users need to be cleared by a doctor and receive a prescription prior to using the therapy. You are encouraged to see our doctor, Dr. Lori Weiser, for a prescription. Please call Nearing Total Health to make an appointment or with any questions.

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