By: Sarah M
Fibromyalgia is a chronic disease characterized by bothersome and persistent pain. This alone does not cause serious complications, but can however be very trying for an affected individual. Characterized by symptoms as varied as numerous, its treatment generally requires a multidisciplinary approach. To relieve it, some scientists advocate hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Zoom on this potential therapy, relayed by Femme Actuelle and the website Why Docteur .
Used in some hospitals, oxygen therapy sessions in a hyperbaric chamber are initially a treatment intended for victims of incidents at sea, especially during diving. In some cases, they can also be used to treat carbon monoxide poisoning, hyperbaric chambers promoting oxygenation of body tissues.
For Dr. Shai Efrati, part of a group of Israeli-American researchers, this method could see a new usefulness: relieving the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia, its causes and symptoms
Fibromyalgia is a disease that affects almost 2% of the population according to the French Rheumatology Society. However, it remains largely unknown because it is difficult to diagnose. There are several symptoms that characterize it, in particular:
- A pain generalized throughout the body, knowing that some joints may be more painful than others
- Increased sensitivity and exacerbated pain
- Sudden or unexplained fatigue
- Poor quality of sleep
- Lack of energy upon waking
- Muscle stiffness
- Persistent migraines
You should also know that fibromyalgia is a disease that mainly affects the fairer sex. Thus for 2 affected men, there would be 8 women with the same disorder. Namely, it was not recognized as a disease by the WHO until 1992.
Since then, fibromyalgia has been talked about and for good reason, its symptoms are not without impact on daily life. To this end, a study on hyperbaric oxygen therapy was conducted by Dr. Efrati, in order to assess the impact of this method on the disease. Published in 2015 by the journal Plos One, it suggests, according to the results relayed by Pourquoi Docteur, that “this treatment is useful when the pain results from an injury to the brain”.
What about the study?
Out of 48 women participating in this clinical trial, 24 women were chosen for treatment in a hyperbaric chamber, the aim being to provide them with a very large quantity of oxygen in a hyperbaric environment, that is to say where the pressure is higher than normal. A total of 40 sessions were prescribed to half of the patients, 5 times a week, all for two months. The remaining 24 women “served as controls” before benefiting in turn from oxygen therapy. According to Dr. Efrati, “the patients who suffered from fibromyalgia in addition to the symptoms following a concussion have seen their symptoms disappear”.
Haïm Golan, co-author of the study, agrees. According to the scientist, “oxygen induces a reorganization in the brain at the level of neurons associated with pain”. As part of this trial, a majority of women would have seen their consumption of painkillers decrease. Thus, the pain threshold would be reduced, especially in the case of migraines.
In view of these results, Dr. Efrati and his colleague share their optimism about oxygen therapy, although the size of the study is still modest and requires further research. Furthermore, this method would not be suitable for fibromyalgia triggered by an infectious disease.
Today, traditional treatments consist of a first non-drug approach, which is highly recommended by the European League against Rheumatism. It mainly consists in prescribing physical exercise adapted to the patient’s condition.
As for taking medication, it is only considered when the non-drug approach has not been effective.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy, what you need to know
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a treatment where a person is administered a very large amount of oxygen in a hyperbaric environment. This can be done in groups or individually in the form of sessions that last less than two hours. Each session is divided into three parts:
- Compression, where the air pressure inside the passenger compartment gradually increases
- Oxygenation, where the patient is administered pure oxygen
- Decompression, where the air pressure is reduced to return to atmospheric pressure
The principle of treatment is to administer pure oxygen to patients. This is why the pressure is increased. In an environment where the pressure is 2.5 times higher than normal, the blood is oxygenated in depth. Thus, the oxygen concentration increases by almost 15 times. The most poorly vascularized regions then find themselves receiving a beneficial amount of this gas which remains essential to their health.
If you think you have fibromyalgia, it is strongly advised to consult a rheumatologist. This last will make you pass an interrogation aiming at diagnosing you to establish a treatment adapted to your condition.