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Does Hyperbaric Treatment Help Muscle Injuries?

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The previous post Does Hyperbaric Treatment Heal Sprains? covered research that looked into hyperbaric oxygen treatment for injuries like ankle and knee sprains, and muscle soreness.

Some professional sports teams have been using hyperbaric oxygen chambers hoping to speed recovery and enhance performance. Players spend time in a small pressurized enclosure, breathing high levels of oxygen. Other athletes and private citizens have purchased chambers, hoping for various gains. Like other helpful and specific medicines, hyperbaric oxygen helps some things and not others, and can have side effects. The post Does Hyperbaric Oxygen Help Exercise Ability? explains more of how it works.

Sprains and delayed onset soreness are not injuries where low oxygen prevents cells from doing their job to fight infection and rebuild. Elevating oxygen levels doesn't turn normal cells into super cells. It returns them to function. For non-geriatric athletes, sports injuries should not be hypoxic, which is an area of low oxygen. (Given the junk these athletes eat for "sports food" the state of their blood vessels should benefit by a closer look. See Is Your Health Food Unhealthful.)

A concern in hyperbaric medicine is that sensationalized use of hyperbarics for things that may not work will take the legitimate medicine of oxygen treatment and give it a sham image. Dr. Steve Thom, MD, PhD, past president of the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society (UHMS) warns that some team physicians appear unaware of the risks of hyperbaric medicine. He stresses the need for proper medical clearance and supervision of the hyperbaric chamber. For certification and policy information, see the UHMS web site.

The idea that perhaps there are other effects of injury that are not from low oxygen has led to more research on sprains and muscle injury. A study presented here at the UHMS meeting this week by a group from the Tokyo Medical and Dental University in Japan was, "The effects of hyperbaric oxygen therapy on patients with muscle injury." They wondered if hyperbaric oxygen could reduce edema after muscle injury.

Dr. Kazuyoshi Yagishita and colleagues looked at twenty patients who sustained muscle injury during sports, who were admitted to the Tokyo hospital within seven days after injury. The patients received hour-long hyperbaric treatments for one to seven sessions. Patients were tested before and after each treatment for pain at rest and with motion, subjective evaluation of edema, muscle stiffness, and leg volume. All parameters slightly improved with treatment. They concluded that, in this study, in patients with muscle injury, hyperbaric treatment was effective. Dr. Yagishita told me he felt that further study is necessary to assess healing acceleration and intermediate and long-term results.

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About the Author


M.Ed, PhD, FAWM

Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.

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