My experience with hyperbaric oxygen therapy
I have had Multiple Sclerosis for over 20 years. It is widely understood that inflammation in the brain occurs in MS. I personally believe the theory – which is slowly gaining attention – that there is a significant vascular aspect to MS, and that inflammation occurs in part because of constricted blood flow through some of the major veins in the body. This results in blood reflux into the brain and the spinal cord. And ultimately causes damage and the accompanying inflammation when old, deoxygenated blood builds up. Iron buildup is seen as a possible cause for that damage.
I was hopeful that hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) could be helpful as a way of reducing inflammation throughout my body and of increasing the oxygen levels in my blood and tissue. It made sense to me that these two effects could give me relief from some of the symptoms of my disease. I did a 60 session series of HBOT at Washington Hyperbaric Therapy Center with a 10 day break after the first 40. I experienced a number of benefits – for instance, the reduction in the chronic pain I feel at the base of my skull and on the left side of my neck. This pain developed when I lost function of my left interior jugular. I believe this loss causes headaches when the blood refluxes back into my head, and the surrounding oxygen-starved tissue causes neck pain.
After HBOT, my head and neck pain were reduced by at least 80%. Better oxygenation in the brain, I believe, was also responsible for my improved mood and mental clarity. I would literally go into the machine unhappy and come out happy. People around me noticed the obvious difference. HBOT also gave me a rosier complexion, as more oxygen reached my cheeks. I think that the increase in oxygenated blood was responsible for better left hand and arm strength as well as a deeper, stronger voice. And that seems related to my stronger back; I could more easily sit up straight.
After emerging from HBOT I also experienced a wonderful – albeit brief – improvement in my walking. I could lift my knees higher and my gait was a little quicker. I'm not sure whether to attribute this to reduced inflammation in the damaged areas of my brain and spinal cord or to the boost in oxygen in my blood. The brevity of that improvement as well as the damage I have to my vascular system makes me suspect the latter; oxygen was like a shot of adrenaline to a person with an oxygen-depleted vascular system. Also, my sleep was excellent throughout, although after a few hours of post-HBOT high energy, I would often get very tired. This fluctuation in energy was perhaps the most frustrating aspect of HBOT.
These are the most significant improvements I experienced from HBOT. I believe they may have been the result of reduced inflammation and increased oxygenation in my blood and tissue. I can only speculate about the relationship between greater oxygenation and reduced inflammation. I recognize that some of these improvements may only be temporary, as my disease continues to assault my body, but hopefully some will last.