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Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) introduces pure oxygen to the body to encourage the natural healing process. Doctors use HBOT to accelerate the healing of certain infections, open wounds, and specific types of poisoning.

This treatment takes place in a pressurized chamber filled with pure oxygen. The air pressure in the chamber is raised to encourage the body to absorb the increased amount of oxygen. This process helps fight off infections and deter cell damage in injuries.

Cells need oxygen to heal. The air inside a hyperbaric chamber is 100% pure oxygen. The air we typically breathe contains about 21% oxygen.

The air pressure inside the chamber is slowly increased to two to three times our absolute atmosphere. This process allows your body to absorb more oxygen into the plasma and encourages the growth of healthy new tissue where it’s needed.

HBOT can treat a range of conditions, including:

Hypoxia and hypoxemia both involve a loss of oxygen in either the blood or tissues of the body. Tissue can decay from lack of blood or lack of properly oxygenated blood.

HBOT both increases the oxygenation of the blood and improves its circulation to tissue that may have been oxygen deprived.

This therapy has also been successful in reversing blood poisonings, like carbon monoxide and cyanide poisoning.

Saturating the blood with oxygen helps move the poisonous gasses out of the body at a rapid rate, reducing blockages and the risk of major health complications.

Increased oxygenation promotes angiogenesis. This is the growth of new blood vessels from the existing vascular system.

New blood vessels support healthy tissue growth by delivering much-needed nutrients to starved cells through the oxygen-rich blood circulating throughout the body.

HBOT increases the quality of the oxygen supplied to open wounds, like diabetic ulcers, supporting healthy cell growth and tissue repair.

Collagen is crucial to the health of your skin and other organs. It’s the most abundant protein in the body. Collagen makes up the majority of your connective tissue, including your muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

HBOT stimulates collagen growth. This in turn promotes healing in people whose skin grafts have become compromised or are altogether failing.

It also helps support healing for radiation injuries on the skin that may occur after cancer treatment has been completed.

A breakdown in tissue can happen from infection or serious trauma. When a wound or injury occurs, blood vessels in that area can become damaged or severed.

Damaged blood vessels can leak fluid deep into the fibers of the surrounding tissue, causing the cells to swell. The tissue surrounding the wound will begin to decay after an extended period of oxygen depravity.

The additional oxygen pumped into the blood during therapy can help reduce swelling, allowing the tissue to be flooded with nutrients that support and stimulate healing.

The body can then begin to heal the wound damage by attracting the endothelial cells needed to repair the wound.

HBOT increases the concentration of oxygen in the blood that’s delivered to the tissues in your body. This promotes strong cells that stand a better chance of resisting infection.

Sometimes bacteria can enter into places it doesn’t belong after being introduced to an open wound. If left untreated, this can cause severe damage.

Bacteria that enter the brain, spinal cord, or bone could pose very serious health risks. Exposing the bacteria to increased oxygen levels can help disable deadly toxins, as they cannot thrive in that environment.

Diseases like actinomycosis and other bacterial infections don’t always readily respond to treatment. HBOT can boost white blood cells, making them more efficient at detecting infection and better at eliminating rogue invaders once they’re identified.

The use of HBOT has expanded beyond its original treatment of decompression sickness in deep-sea divers. It can provide healing for a host of issues.

Chronic pain can come on suddenly with no warning or identifiable cause. HBOT has been shown to increase the quality of life in people who experience musculoskeletal pain in particular. Research participants reported increased pain thresholds and physical functionality, and a decrease in tender pain points.

HBOT can also reduce swelling in wound injuries, allowing oxygen-rich plasma to reach the site of injury and accelerate healing. This process also revitalizes healthy tissue in deep wounds where the bone is exposed and the surrounding flesh is in necrosis.

Air or gas bubbles in the blood can be fatal if not diagnosed and treated immediately. This typically happens to deep-sea divers or miners who work below sea level.

The nitrogen bubbles released into the bloodstream as the body returns to sea level disrupt the flow of blood. They could potentially block an artery, causing a stroke or heart attack.

Decompression forces the nitrogen bubbles to shrink and dissolve into the bloodstream. The pressure is then slowly lowered in the chamber, allowing the body to release the gas into the air, much like the resurfacing of a natural diver.

Reperfusion injury refers to damage that can take place once blood flow returns to tissue that has been oxygen-deprived for an extended period of time.

For example, during a crushing injury, blood vessels become clamped off periodically and stop the flow of blood. The oxygen your tissue needs to heal itself is in that blood. The body reacts to the sudden injury and releases molecules that can do irreversible damage to the surrounding tissue.

The tissue surrounding the injury gets flooded with inflammatory cytokines and other harmful chemicals, making it difficult to get healthy blood to those affected areas. This is the primary cause of tissue necrosis during injury.

Introducing pressure therapy encourages the body’s free radicals to seek out and destroy the harmful molecules that are damaging the cells near the injury. Tiny blood vessels transfer oxygen to the tissue to promote healing.

HBOT can be beneficial in treating stubborn infections, wound healing, and even chronic pain.

The outcome of the treatments depends on the location of the injury or infection, your age, any comorbid conditions, and when you begin treatment.

Talk with a doctor or other healthcare professional to see whether this treatment is right for you.

HBOT is highly flammable and should only be administered by a federally approved facility.

Catasha Gordon is a sexuality educator from Spencer, Oklahoma. She’s the owner and founder of Expression Over Repression, a company built around sexual expression and knowledge. You can typically find her creating sex education materials or building some kinky hardware in a fresh set of coffin nails. She enjoys catfish (tail on), gardening, eating off her husband’s plate, and Beyoncé. Follow her everywhere.