How effective is low-pressure HBOT for patients with fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia (FM) is a syndrome of unknown etiology, characterized by chronic, diffuse and generalized pain, which directly affects the quality of life of patients. Drug therapy is usually the main treatment method, but in view of its long-term nature, non-drug methods are needed to improve signs and symptoms. The most commonly used non-drug treatment is physical exercise. There are also therapies that focus on improving tissue oxygenation, such as hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), which can mitigate body fatigue and relieve pain.


So, compared with physical exercise, how is the effect of low-pressure hyperbaric oxygen therapy on fibromyalgia?

1. Physical exercise and low-pressure hyperbaric oxygen therapy

Low-pressure hyperbaric oxygen therapy: 5 times a week, a 90-minute course of treatment each time, and a total of 40 times. In order to prevent anxiety and irritability, 100% oxygen is used with air break at 1.45 ATA. The patients in the hyperbaric chamber wear masks, and the oxygen purity is 97%.


Low-intensity physical exercise: a total of 16 times, twice a week, and 60 minutes each time. The exercise is divided into three parts: 10 minutes of warm-up, 40 minutes of training and 10 minutes of relaxation. The warm-up hyperbaric chamber sports is mainly walking, and the training includes 1 kg dumbbell exercises for 60 times per minute, elastic band stretching training and flexibility exercises. 

2. Comparison of the effects of physical exercise and low-pressure hyperbaric oxygen therapy on fibromyalgia 

(1) Fatigue

Low-pressure HBOT can significantly mitigate the fatigue of patients with fibromyalgia. This may be due to the increased oxygen supply of the musculoskeletal system, which activates cell activity (that is, increases the synthesis of adenosine triphosphate) and promotes the metabolism of fatigue-related substances. Specifically, the fatigue-related metabolic factors produced in the process of contraction are hydrogen ions, lactate, inorganic phosphate, reactive oxygen species, heat shock proteins and orosomucoid. These factors can be better removed after the application of HBOT.

In fact, HBOT can reduce the fatigue of chronic fatigue syndrome because it can reduce active oxygen and lactic acid levels, as well as muscle fatigue after exercise. However, this effect of reducing fatigue cannot be found in physical exercise. 

(2) Pain

Low-pressure HBOT can reduce the perception of pain in patients with fibromyalgia. This may be due to the action of oxygen, which stimulates blood vessel growth and promotes tissue recovery, thereby reducing tissue hypoxia that causes pain. However, physical exercise failed to mitigate the perceived pain.

(3) Pressure pain threshold

Low-pressure HBOT can improve the pain thresholds of the two tender points of the lateral epicondyle and gluteal muscles, while the fibromyalgia patients who participate in physical exercise have significantly improved the tender points of the occiput, lower neck, second intercostal space, major trochanter and knee .

(4) Endurance and functional capacity

After low-pressure hyperbaric oxygen treatment, endurance and functional capacity have also been improved. These improvements may be due to increased tissue oxygenation produced by HBOT, which will accelerate the recovery of muscle damage caused by exercise. Physical exercise also improves the endurance and functional capacity of patients with fibromyalgia, but it is not as effective as HBOT.

The results show that both low-pressure hbot hyperbaric oxygen therapy and low-intensity physical exercise can improve the pressure pain threshold, endurance and functional capacity (measured by walking distance) of some muscles at rest, as well as physical function. However, only low pressure HBOT can significantly improve the pain induced by fatigue and rest. Therefore, low-pressure hyperbaric oxygen therapy may be the preferred treatment for fibromyalgia patients with high levels of pain and fatigue.

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