Hyperbaric chamber therapy, otherwise known as hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), is a medical treatment used to help boost the body’s natural healing processes. Historically, hyperbaric oxygen therapy was first used in the United States in the early 1900s. Later, it was used to treat a condition called decompression sickness, a hazard of scuba diving.
Today, HBOT is prescribed and supervised medically by institutions such as Mayo Clinic, and it may even be covered by insurance (depending on the condition it’s used to treat). You may be wondering how exactly hyperbaric chambers work. Are they controversial? What type of ailment is HBOT commonly used for? Perhaps most importantly, what does the research say about its efficacy and safety?
How Does It Work?
One method of HBOT involves a person receiving the treatment inside of a tube-like chamber. Some tubes are made of clear acrylic, allowing patients to see outside of the chamber. This transparency may eliminate some of the potential anxiety a person may have of feeling trapped inside the tube.
During HBOT, a patient is instructed to lie down in the enclosed chamber and breathe the air inside the tube as the pressure is gradually increased.
Another mode of treatment, such as that offered at Mayo Clinic, is a multiperson hyperbaric oxygen room, where oxygen is delivered via a mask or a lightweight clear hood placed over the head. In this scenario, a person can sit or lie down in a lounge chair—there is no tube or chamber with this method.
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