HBOT, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, is a treatment in which a person is exposed to pure oxygen at increased atmospheric pressure. The increased oxygen and pressure saturates red blood cells and blood plasma with more oxygen than normal. This treatment is commonly used to treat decompression sickness (“the bends”), air embolisms, and carbon monoxide poisoning.
HBOT is becoming popular in athletes to treat concussions and for faster healing/recovery. Such athletes include multiple Olympic gold medal winner Michael Phelps and NBA star LeBron James. The increased oxygen allows tissues to recover faster and counteracts symptoms of fatigue (1).
How does it Heal?
Oxygen is necessary for healing. This is why tissues with low oxygen delivery take so long to heal. HBOT helps ensure that there is sufficient oxygen present to support the healing process. It has also been found to stimulate the migration of stem cells to the site of injury to repair further.
HBOT induces the proliferation of fibroblasts, which are cells that produce collagen and other fibers of connective tissue. The high oxygen content has also been found to support hydroxylation of the amino acids proline and lysine, which are building blocks for collagen (2).
Apart from its effects on fibroblast and collagen, HBOT promotes VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) and angiogenesis- the formation of new blood vessels. This allows for a blood delivery system to the site of injury to support the healing process.
Sports Injuries and HBOT
Sports injuries involving bone, muscle, tendon and other types of connective tissue have a lengthy healing process. Injured structures with poor circulation (like tendons and ligaments) take even longer due to limited oxygen and nutrients.
This is why HBOT is optimal for slow-healing injuries, the oxygen can reach areas with poor circulation speeding up the healing process. The process is further enhanced by the stimulation of stem cells, growth factors (like VEGF) and fibroblast proliferation.
Combining HBOT and Prolotherapy
Prolotherapy is a regenerative treatment that greatly enhances the healing capacity of soft-tissue (like tendon, ligaments, and fascia). It is a great complimentary treatment to be used in conjunction with HBOT for the healing of soft tissues. This process can be further supported by guided exercises and manipulative treatments like OMT (Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment) and spinal manipulations.
Regenerative science in always evolving bring new therapies to the table. This is great for athletes and common people alike who want to heal musculoskeletal injuries and remain pain-free.
- Ishii, Yoshimasa, et al. “Hyperbaric Oxygen as an Adjuvant for Athletes.” PubMed, NCBI, 23 Sept. 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16138784.
- Bhutani, Sourabh and Vishwanath, Guruswamy. “Hyperbaric Oxygen and Wound Healing.” PubMed, NCBI, May. 2012, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3495382/