When former National Football League (NFL) linebacker Junior Seau committed suicide earlier this year, the immediate speculation was that his depression and ultimate death were due to the numerous concussions he received during his playing years. While this connection is still being studied by scientists (and may, in fact, be aided by the donation of Seau's brain to research), one thing is certain: concussions are an all-too-common, and sometimes fatal, occurrence among those who participate in sports on a regular basis. There are about 300,000 sports- or recreation-related concussions diagnosed in this country each year. This doesn't seem alarmingly high until you consider that nearly 85 percent of concussions go undiagnosed.
The statistics get scarier when you realize that teens are a high-risk group for the brain injury. The National Center for Injury Prevention reports that 45 percent of high school football players get a concussion during a season of the sport; 35 percent get more than one concussion in the same season.
There is much being done through both regulation and research to prevent concussions, but there's an important option for people who have already experienced one or more concussions: mild hyperbaric oxygen therapy (mHBOT).
Oxygen fuels the brain and helps it operate properly. A concussion, which is medically categorized as a mild traumatic brain injury, often inhibits proper functioning of the brain. In fact, people who have experienced concussions can develop post-concussion syndrome (PCS), which can subject them to brain-related symptoms such as:
· Dizziness and vertigo
· Irritability and depression
· Memory loss
· Inability to focus or concentrate
In many of these cases, increased oxygen can help return the brain back to its normal functioning and eliminate the symptoms of concussion or post-concussion syndrome. mHBOT is a natural therapy that can achieve such results by introducing more oxygen into the body's cells.
To understand mHBOT, consider a can of soda. During the manufacturing process, the can is put under extra pressure so that more carbon dioxide can be dissolved into the soda, keeping it carbonated. When the can is opened, all of that pressure is released and the carbon dioxide begins dissolving. If left to continue this process, the soda will soon become flat. This phenomenon, which occurs when an increase in atmospheric pressure allows more gas to be dissolved into a liquid, is known as Henry's Law of Physics--and believe it or not, it also applies to oxygen therapy and the human body.
mHBOT, which occurs in an inflatable chamber, allows for increased atmospheric pressure on a person‘s body. Plasma (the liquid part of blood), cerebral fluid (fluid surrounding the brain and spin cord) and synovial fluid (fluid surrounding joints) dissolve more oxygen when the body is under this pressure.
This gives oxygen a drug-like effect on the DNA of cells, improving the body’s ability to carry out vital processes. Over repeated sessions of mHBOT, oxygen therapy can bring about lasting improvements, allowing the body to heal itself on a cellular level, form healthy tissue and improve the functioning of all organs. This not only promotes recovery from brain injury, it also offers:
· Faster recovery from all injuries
· Increased energy and endurance
· Improved concentration
· Better sleep
· Improved mood and reduced behavioral symptoms
· Recovery from jet lag
· Improved joint mobility and muscle flexibility
· An overall feeling of rejuvenation
Not Just for Concussions
While I’ve talked about how mHBOT can help brain injuries, its applications are nearly unlimited. It’s great for the treatment of acute sprains, strains and injuries; post-surgical recovery (mHBOT is widely used after cosmetic surgeries to improve results and speed healing); infections; traumatic brain injury; and many chronic diseases. It speeds up the healing of new bone fractures and helps “non-union” fractures heal.
In particular, mHBOT is an important therapy for neurological conditions like cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, stroke and autism. But it can also be useful in treating a number of different disorders. For example, mHBOT can help the heart rest and rebuild when it is recovering from congestive heart failure.
If mHBOT is used before a workout or game it enhances athletic performance. If it is used after a strenuous event it speeds recovery.
mHBOT is also a useful method of detoxification. Within about two weeks of therapy, it can jumpstart the liver detoxification enzymes (such as superoxide dismutase) that break down inflammatory proteins in the blood.
Because it is beneficial in the treatment of so many conditions, mHBOT is often a great adjunct treatment for a particular disease or disorder. Chronic fatigue, angina, pre and post cardiac bypass surgery, congestive heart failure are some of the “off label” uses for mHBOT around the world. “Off label” means that insurance rarely covers these treatments. Hopefully this will change as people and insurance companies realize the healing power of mHBOT. In addition, there are many therapies that enhance the results of mHBOT. These include: food allergy testing and treatment, holistic nutrition planning, pharmaceutical-grade supplements, detoxification support and acupuncture.
What's mHBOT like?
While something like a hyperbaric oxygen chamber might sound scary and futuristic, mHBOT is really a safe, pleasant experience. The inflatable chamber is filled with compressed, ambient air or air that is supersaturated from an oxygen concentrator. The pressure increases equivalent to 11 feet below sea level. It’s this increased pressure that allows the body to absorb more oxygen.
While mHBOT isn’t dangerous, the patient does have the ability to communicate verbally and visually with the doctor and staff outside of the chamber. A patient also has the option of depressurizing and opening the chamber from the inside should he or she become uncomfortable for any reason. The primary discomfort experienced during mHBOT is pressure in the ears. This sensation can be easily abated by sitting upright and turning your head side to side, yawning and stretching your mouth open, or mimicking blowing your nose while you clamp your nose.
Patients who are prone to claustrophobia may feel a little anxious during their first session. Wearing loose clothing can help keep some restrictive feelings at bay.
Typically, however, time spent in the chamber is relaxing. During a 60-minute session, many people choose to spend the time listing to their iPod, talking on their cell phone, playing handheld games, watching movies on a portable DVD player, working on their laptop, or reading a book or magazine. Not only is this an opportunity for down-time, but once you emerge from the chamber, you’re likely to feel quite refreshed!
It is possible to experience a few mild side effects after your first couple of mHBOT sessions. The main one is slight fatigue. This is because the body is sweeping itself clear of toxic debris as part of the oxygenation process.
As your sessions increase, any side effects you experience will diminish. You should consult with your mHBOT provider to see how many sessions will benefit your particular condition.
Getting StartedBecause of its effectiveness, many well-known athletes and sports franchises are employing the treatment of mHBOT in concussion recovery as well as physical therapy. At least 12 NBA (National Basketball Association), NHL (National Hockey League) and NFL teams offer the treatment to their players. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a multimillion-dollar sports star to get the benefits of the therapy. Nor do you even have to be an athlete. mHBOT is available at many complementary care centers across the country, including Vaughan Integrative Medicine. Call (336) 808-3627, (extension 12) for a no-obligation consultation on whether the therapy is right for you.