Authors: Alice Weatherston
Currently few effective therapies exist for relieving the symptoms of fibromyalgia, which is also incredibly difficult to diagnose. Research published recently in PLoS ONE however, has highlighted that through the use of hyperbaric oxygen treatment, individuals with fibromyalgia may be able to reduce or even eliminate their use of pain medication all together.
The trial involved 60 women who had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia for at least 2 years. Each participant was exposed to pure oxygen at twice atmospheric pressure in 90 minute treatments, 5 days a week for 2 months. In total, the 48 patients who completed the trial received 40 hyperbaric oxygen treatments.
The team of researchers from Tel Aviv University (Israel) identified significant alterations in brain activity and fibromyalgia symptoms in 70% of the trial participants.
“The intake of the drugs eased the pain but did not reverse the condition. But hyperbaric oxygen treatments did reverse the condition,” explained Shai Efrati (Tel Aviv University).
Discrepancies were however apparent among patients with varying fibromyalgia catalysts. Patients with fibromyalgia caused by traumatic brain injury, for example, experienced a complete resolution without further need for treatment, but in patients where fibromyalgia was caused as a result of other factors such as fever-related diseases, periodic maintenance therapy was required.
The study group were also able to map the malfunctioning regions of the brain related to fibromyalgia and therefore believe that the disruption of the brain mechanism responsible for processing the feeling of pain is the primary cause of the condition.
“Hyperbaric oxygen treatments are designed to address the actual cause of fibromyalgia – the brain pathology responsible for the syndrome. It means that brain repair, including neuronal regeneration, is possible even for chronic, long-lasting pain syndromes, and we can and should aim for that in any future treatment development,” added Efrati.
The team are now carrying out further studies to investigate further the renewal of brain tissue under hyperbaric conditions.