Chiropractor Chandler AZ

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Oxygen is essential to human life: a primary purpose of the human circulatory system is to deliver oxygen to body tissues and organs. When oxygen supply is restricted, a condition known as ischemia, the result can be permanent injury or death for vital organs such as the heart and/or brain. In addition to its vital role in sustaining life, oxygen is also therapeutic. Supplying extra oxygen in the area of an injury (e.g. injured nerves in peripheral neuropathy) can support biogenesis and healing. This, in a nutshell, is the logic behind hyperbaric oxygen therapy: to create an oxygen-enriched environment to help the body heal.

hyperbaric chamber

In order to do this, two things must happen. First, the body needs to be supplied with pure oxygen: five times that found in sea-level atmosphere. Second, this concentrated oxygen needs to be delivered under increased atmospheric pressure, to enable blood plasma to absorb the oxygen in such concentrated form (Schaefer, 1992). ATA is a standard measurement of atmospheric pressure: 1 ATA is equivalent to pressure at sea level (14.7 psi). At sea level, blood plasma concentration of oxygen is 0.3 ml per deciliter (Tibbles & Edelsberg, 1996).

Hyperbaric chambers are pressurized to 1.3--3 ATA: the equivalent to being up to 66 feet below the surface of the ocean (Schaefer, 1992). One of the earliest uses for hyperbaric oxygen therapy was to treat carbon monoxide poisoning, which remains the most common cause of death by poisoning in the United States (Tibbles & Edelsberg, 1996). Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is still considered the gold standard for reducing the effects of acute carbon monoxide poisoning; additional treatments may ameliorate long-term neuropsychological deficits (Tibbles & Edelsberg, 1996).

Types of hyperbaric chambers

There are two types of hyperbaric chambers: “multiplace” chambers that can hold up to eight persons and an overseer, and “monoplace” chambers meant for a single individual (Schaefer, 1992). The advantage of the latter is portability: it is small enough to use in a typical outpatient clinic, whereas the former is better suited for a large tertiary care facility such as a hospital. Due to lower cost and portability, monoplace chambers are the most popular method for administering hyperbaric oxygen therapy (Tibbles & Edelsberg, 1996).

What does a typical hyperbaric oxygen therapy session involve?

A typical session lasts about 90 minutes: 15 minutes to pressurize on the front end and depressurize on the back end, and 60 minutes of actual therapy. Sessions at a maximum of 3 atmospheres lasting 120 minutes or less have proven safe and effective (Tibbles & Edelsberg, 1996). Some patients may experience the following side effects, which are generally mild.

stepping into hyperbaric chamber

Similar to travelling on airplanes, pressurizing and depressurizing inside the hyperbaric chamber can cause the patient’s ears to pop. Most persons can avoid discomfort by clearing their ears during this process. However individuals with upper respiratory tract infections that may cause ears or sinuses to become clogged should ask the provider for recommendations (rescheduling the session).

The machine makes some noise, but most feel comfortable using electronic devices or reading a book during the session: an intercom enables communication with the provider from inside of the chamber. Persons prone to claustrophobia should let the provider know ahead of time, so he or she can review relaxation techniques.

What conditions can hyperbaric oxygen therapy treat?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been successful in treating carbon monoxide poisoning, decompression syndrome, radiation-induced tissue injury, crush injuries, peripheral neuropathy, traumatic brain injury, musculotendinous sports injuries, neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and dementia, and certain types of open wounds. Your provider can advise you as to whether or not your acute or chronic medical condition might be helped by hyperbaric oxygen therapy.


Schaefer, S. (1992). Fundamentals of hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Orthopaedic Nursing, 11(6), 9-15.

Tibbles, P. & Edelsberg, J. (1996). Hyperbaric oxygen therapy. New England Journal of Medicine, 334(5), 1642-1648.