New Age Fluff or Real Treatment? Fibromyalgia Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Study Opens Eyes

If someone gave you $10,000 to be used for treatment purposes would you use it on HBOT?

  • Definitely yes

    Votes: 15 34.9%
  • There's a good chance I would

    Votes: 14 32.6%
  • Possibly

    Votes: 7 16.3%
  • Probably not

    Votes: 4 9.3%
  • Definitely not

    Votes: 3 7.0%

  • Total voters


Well-Known Member
Just a quick mention: Both HBOT and DMSO are purported to increase circulation and reduce inflammation--along with providing many other benefits. I would guess these two therapies would work well together.

@Learner, @Folk, thanks for your updates on your HBOT experiences. I'm currently looking at seeing a local DC who practices what he calls "Chiropractic Neurology", and incorporates HBOT therapy into his practice. He calls his clinic:

Neuro Clinic

When I called him this past year, the office told me they've gotten Medicare to cover most of their HBOT therapy. So it might be worth it for anybody on Medicare to look into a HBOT practitioner who has figured out a way to have it covered by insurance.

Andrew Kinsella

New Member
In terms of myofascial pain- a close friend has fibromyalgia, and had had major issues with neck pain especially. Lots of manual therapy- then did 10 sessions in a 1.3atm setup, with about 3 sessions of osteopathic treatment/massage. The result has held for about a year now with only 2 single review sessions. The cost of the sessions was $37.50 AUS.
As a result I've just started it for a chronic myofascial pain syndrome I have had worsening for nearly 20 years- involving right neck and back, with multiple tender trigger points that resisted all the more conservative manual therapy treatments. It was also producing unpleasant autonomic effects- such as right sided facial sweating and palpitations.
Now the effect on the muscle pain was observable even in the chamber on the first session as individual tight muscles started releasing one by one. ( I am a health professional myself and have plenty of training in anatomy).
After 2 sessions my flexibility is much better and I am bending to tie my shoe laces without trouble.
I expect that the 10 session (3 sessions/week for 3 weeks) will have a very significant effect as I work to correct my posture at the same time.

Clearly I can't comment about issues like brain fog.
I am appalled at the lack of studies online- but then there's nothing here that can be patented by a pharmaceutical company.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) sounds like a "new agey" fluff treatment mostly employed by the athletes and the rich. The revelation that the 120 HBOT sessions improved Joe Namaths cognition, memory and feelings of well-being might feed into that perception. SPECT scans of Namath's' brain showed clear changes which remained a year after the treatment stopped, however, and HBOT therapy therapy has been used to good effect in traumatic brain injury. HBOT therapy has been the object of serious study and is used in a variety of conditions. Best known for its ability to treat the bends but it's also used in wound healing, to treat necrotizing infections, hearing loss, gangrene, burns and radiation injury.

The increased atmospheric pressure found in hyperbaric oxygen chambers allows them to push oxygen into the bloodstream and ultimately into the brain - a part of the body with a fierce demand for oxygen. Those increased oxygen levels appear to able to enhance brain functioning and may even help form new neural pathways. [fright]

View attachment 483 [/fright]While HBOT is commonly used in burn and wound healing and is getting interest in traumatic brain injury it's record in central nervous system conditions is mixed. A review of 12 multiple sclerosis studies (all completed between 1983 and 1987) concluded HBOT provided no clinical effectiveness. A 2012 review of autism studies found mixed results. Some evidence suggests HBOT could, however, help relieve migraine attacks. HBOT's effectiveness in depression, Parkinson's or Alzheimer's has simply not been studied.

Some work has been done in chronic pain. A 2009 study found HBOT improved pain threshold scores and various symptom measures in myofascial pain syndrome. Pain was decreased in a small 2004 complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) study. A 2015 paper "Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy: A New Treatment for Chronic Pain?" that reviewed 25 studies concluded that HBOT may be helpful in treating pain but that further studies are needed to assess its efficacy. A 2013 rat study suggested it may be able to reverse allodynia.

HBOT has not gotten much play in FM or ME/CFS or related conditions. A successful 2004 Turkish fibromyalgia study (titled "A new treatment modality for Fibromyalgia") didn't spark much interest. It took 11 years and another team from the Mideast (and Texas) to produce another study.

The Isreali researchers producing the study got interested in HBOT after two colleagues tried it out. They reported that a graduate student who developed fibromyalgia after suffering a traumatic brain injury in a train crash, and a sociology professor with FM both received "remarkable improvement" from the therapy.

The Study

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Can Diminish Fibromyalgia Syndrome – Prospective Clinical Trial. Shai Efrati1,2,3,4*, Haim Golan3,5, Yair Bechor2, Yifat Faran6, Shir Daphna-Tekoah6,7, Gal Sekler8, Gregori Fishlev2,3, Jacob N. Ablin9,3, Jacob Bergan2,3, Olga Volkov3,5, Mony Friedman2,3, Eshel Ben-Jacob1,4,8,10*, Dan Buskila. PLoS ONE
10(5): e0127012. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0127012

Because it was impossible to design an effective sham control group a crossover design in employed. Each of the two groups received the treatment or no treatment for two months and then crossed over and took the option remaining to them.

Multiple assessments were done including a tender point count, pain threshold tests and measures of functional impairment (Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire—FIQ), symptom severity (SCL-90 questionnaire), and Quality of life (SF-36 questionnaire). SPECT scan imaging was done to rates of regional cerebral blood flow before and after the hyperbaric oxygen treatments.

The protocol was intense: five days a week for 90 minutes for two months. The final SPECT scan was done a weeks after the last HBOT session. The study involved 60 women with fibromyalgia.


All the measures - pain sensitivity, number of tender points, psychological distress, physical functioning and quality of life - were all significantly improved after the HBOT treatment. The "effect sizes" of the treatments ranged from medium (psychological distress, physical functioning) to large medium (quality of life) to large (pain thresholds, physical functioning (one group)). All the patients who made it through the study (12 dropped out for various reasons) reported improvement. Most were able to reduce their pain medication levels significantly. Many also reported improvements in sleep and energy in addition to the pain and mood enhancements.

In something of a surprise some of the patients felt worse before they felt better. In fact, for some it took up to 20 sessions to begin to turn corner on their pain.
View attachment 485 [/fleft]The changes in brain functioning the SPECT scan picked up mirrored the symptom improvement found. Prior to the study the FM patients had higher activity in the somatosensory cortex and reduced activity in the frontal, cingulate, medial temporal and cerebellar cortices. After the therapy their brain patterns started to shift towards normal: somatosensory cortex activity decreased and frontal, cingulate, medial temporal and cerebellar cortices activity increased.

Essentially the activity in the parts of the brain that sensed pain declined and activity in the parts of the brain that control or interpret pain signals increased.

In a press release one of the study authors stated the HBOT therapy cured traumatic brain injury triggered FM. While the results of the study were quite positive the clinical effects (from medium to large) did not suggest a cure had taken place for most.


The authors suggested HBOT may have increased the "feel-good" chemicals GABA and/or opioids in the brain. Increased levels of these factors then turned on the inhibitory pain pathways leading to the spinal cord. Balky inhibitory pathways that reduce the intensity of pain signals leading from the spinal cord (the body) to the brain appear to play an important role in FM. Inhibiting those pathways appears to allow the pain regulating portions of the brain to be overwhelmed by pain signals.

Other studies involving traumatic brain injury and stroke suggest HBOT effects the central nervous system in ways that might make sense for ME/CFS and FM and allied disorders. Blood vessel functioning, for instance, is of great interest in ME/CFS, migraine and POTS and HBOT appears to be able to trigger blood vessel repair mechanisms and improve blood flows. It also reportedly acts as an anti-inflammatory, can promote the integrity of the blood-brain barrier, alleviates oxidative stress, enhances mitochondrial functioning, and, the authors suggested, may normalize glial cell activity. It appears to be helpful in reversing the effects of traumatic brain injury.

HBOT has not proved effective, however, in some other central nervous system disorders and has been little studied in others.


The big knock on therapy has been cost. Most companies promoting HBOT therapy on the web do not post charges but general cost estimates posted on the web they range from $1-200 per hour session. According to one website using an HBOT in a hospital setting for an hour could cost 4 to 6x's more. [fright]

View attachment 487[/fright] If these numbers are correct engaging in a 40 session treatment at a private clinic in the U.S. similar to that which occurred in the study would cost from $6-10,000. (This is despite one company bemoaning the fact oxygen is too cheap for drug companies to be interested in it. )

Cost wouldn't be so much of an issue if the results stuck. Ten grand to reduce significantly reduce pain and improve cognition and sleep in FM patients is a bargain if the brain reset sticks. The fact that HBOT appears in other conditions to foster the development of new neural pathways suggests the results could hold. The authors of the study asserted that people with traumatic brain injury triggered FM might just be cured. People with infection triggered FM, on the other hand, would probably need follow up sessions.

The cheapest hyperbaric oxygen chamber I could find was a portable one for about $4,000 and they can cost ten times that much. Most appear to be made by small companies. The most cost-effective way to use HBOT for those who can afford it might be try 10 or 20 sessions on one's own and if it appears effective to buy a unit. Companies promoting HBOT treatment assert that multiple sessions are needed. If HBOT is tried enough sessions should be done to be able to assess the results.

Clinical trials are currently examining HBOT effectiveness in brain injury, diabetes, interstitial cystitis, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, small blood vessel disease and diabetic retinopathy.

The big question for most fibromyalgia and ME/CFS patients wishing to try this therapy is whether enough studies will be done to validate the treatment enough for insurance companies to pay for it. In that regard HBOT is in the same place as low dose naltrexone except worse. It's an expensive treatment without the possibility of producing a dividend for a major drug company. Since oxygen is cheap and and the hyperbaric oxygen chamber field is populated by small producers more trials are probably not going to come from industry. That leaves, at least in the U.S., academia or non-profits with cash to fill the gaps.

Still, one study was done and given the right situation others may happen. Jarred Younger, for instance, has been willing - and successful - at exploring non-traditional treatments such as LDN. He's looking at a variety of substances that probably don't have much commercial value but could bring benefit to people with FM and ME/CFS. His goal is finding treatments - not producing profits - and and he has a lab and a budget he controls. That's the kind of researcher that will hopefully pick up and explore HBOT therapy further in FM and ME/CFS.

My daughter, has had ME/CFS for 20 years with varriations from bedbound for months to well functioning. About 5 yearsa ago she believed that she contracted Lymes at a family event in Upsate New York. Her doctor (outside the US) found one published study which showed that Lymes could be stopped with HBOT treatment within one month or so of infection as the bugs replicate and spread on roughly a monthly sycle.
She had sessions of HOBT twice a day for two weeks but also IV Vit C later on the same day to deal with the oxidative stress. She cleared the Lymes infection and it greatly improved her long standing ME/CFS symptoms.

Her ME/CFS had been trigered earlier by Epstien-Barr at 20 years of age with a possible brain injury earlier in her childhood.
Thanks Flora for the info. It's good to hear from someone who's used HBOT. How often do you need to use it to see results?
My daughter, has had ME/CFS for 20 years with varriations from bedbound for months to well functioning. About 5 yearsa ago she believed that she contracted Lymes at a family event in Upsate New York. Her doctor (outside the US) found one published study which showed that Lymes could be stopped with HBOT treatment within one month or so of infection as the bugs replicate and spread on roughly a monthly sycle.
She had sessions of HOBT twice a day for two weeks but also IV Vit C later on the same day every second day to deal with the oxidative stress. He doctor believed that the feeling worse before feeling better is largely the result of the added osidative stress and with the added Vit C she did not feel worse before feeling better.
She cleared the Lymes infection and it greatly improved her long standing ME/CFS symptoms.

Her ME/CFS had been trigered earlier by Epstien-Barr at 20 years of age with a possible brain injury earlier in her childhood.
She hasn't felt the need to use HBOT since those sessions 5 years ago, and if she gets pain she is able to deal with it using regular paracetemol. The HBOT wasn't perhaps the only thing making a difference to her long term symtoms but it certainly helped.


I would like to try it daily for a month
I can rent one but the cost is pretty high for just an experiment
Does anyone want to split the cost of a rental maybe four ways?
I am in the San Francisco Bay Area


Hello All
Exiting news
I found an affordable HBOT company in Albany California Bay Area
They are significantly cheaper than the other places I've called
They are called Holistic Hyperbarics
They use soft shelled chambers
Talk to Alex
If you use them please mention my name Steve from Health Rising this gives me free sessions
I am not invested in the company in any way just wanted to pass along this information for people that want to try but can't afford it


Well-Known Member
I am currently part way through treatment, not completed enough for the survey yet. I dont have fibromyalgia - however my gp (uk) put that in my records so I used that to get access to treatment. I have to pay but fortunately not at American rates.

5 treatments per week were recommended but I couldnt manage that, I've done 2or 3. I'm going to try 4 next week.

It's noisy in the chamber. It can be hot and it gets cold as you go up from your dive. I have ear problems but am managing them, they increase the pressure more slowly for me. It's noisy. I was warned I'd be more tired initially, I'm still more tired. Was also told it may help another medical problem I have, I'm hoping it may help a third problem.

I did a walk today without stopping, sometimes need 3 stops for that walk but I'm often able to do more in summer so juries still out but I cant see how the really severe would manage the noise and temperature changes. Slept for alot longer than usual after my last treatment, despite the current uk heat. I'm hoping that was restorative sleep.


Well-Known Member
An update - I completed my 20 sessions and I'm now on 1 per week. It's certainly not a cure but by about dive 15 or 16 I was less tired after the therapy and well enough to start doing more. Unfortunately I dont think the effect is permanent as I felt I was going backwards after a week of no treatment. I'm not sure how much is the HBOT and how much is due to the things I have to do to manage my ear problems (regular anti-histamine, ibuprofen). I also wonder if I'd get the same benefit from buying an oxygen concentrator and breathing higher levels of oxygen once a week.

Anyway it's good to have my brain back to a more normal level and to be doing a bit more even if it hasnt done as much for the fatigue as I'd hoped. So I'm going to carry on paying for my one treatment a week.

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