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Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

What is hyperbaric oxygen therapy?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy, or HBOT, is a type of treatment used to speed up healing of carbon monoxide poisoning, gangrene, stubborn wounds, and infections in which tissues are starved for oxygen. If you undergo this therapy, you will enter a special chamber to breathe in pure oxygen in air pressure levels 1.5 to 3 times higher than average. The goal is to fill the blood with enough oxygen to repair tissues and restore normal body function.

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Although hyperbaric oxygen therapy may seem like a relatively new treatment, the use of pressurized gas in medicine has ancient roots. 

The development of hyperbaric medicine in closely linked to the history of deep-sea diving. Even though the origin of diving is not known, it is believed that early breath-holding divers dated back more than 5,000 years ago.

The earliest divers would submerge themselves deep underwater with a single breath while performing a variety of tasks such as harvesting pearls, coral, and sponges, as well as ship salvaging and spearfishing.

According to legend, Alexander the Great was lowered into the Bosphorus Straits in a glass vessel, giving him a great advantage in the siege of Tyre.

French physicists and inventors led the way in hyperbaric medicine by creating and improving the original hyperbaric chambers.

French doctor Marcel Junod was a champion of hyperbaric therapy, and propagated the theory that exposure to between two and four ATA (absolute atmospheres) would improve cerebral blood flow, increase blood circulation to internal organs, and produce a feeling of relaxation and well-being.

Inspired by Junod’s remarks, his colleague Gabriel Pravaz then built a hyperbaric chamber. Applying Junod’s analysis, he used the combination of oxygen and increased atmospheric pressure to successfully treat a wide variety of conditions, ranging from tuberculosis to laryngitis.

Doctor Cunningham built the largest hyperbaric chamber ever commissioned in history.

Debuting on December 1st, 1928 to much fanfare, the “air chamber hospital” eventually scraped for parts was five stories high, complete with twelve bedrooms on each floor. No luxury was spared in furnishing the hospital, and it was widely considered to be a progressive medical wonder.

At that time, in addition to being enormous in stature, Doctor Cunningham’s hyperbaric facility was the only active hyperbaric facility in the world.

Home hyperbaric chambers have been around for nearly two decades.

Following tabloid-published photos of pop singer Michael Jackson lying in a bizarre glass vessel in 1986, the public’s interest hyperbaric therapy spiked. It was rumored the unusual medical device was a fountain of youth that could help the artist live up to 150 years.

The King of Pop wasn’t the only celebrity to use a home hyperbaric chamber. According to journalists, Keanu Reeves also sought a prescription for in-home hyperbaric treatment to provide relief from his insomnia.

Keanu was known to enjoy the soft-sided portable chamber at his Hollywood home, and, at times, would bring it to movie sets, convincing his colleagues to give the treatment a try.

Professional athletes are amongst those celebrities utilizing hyperbaric therapy – but not necessarily for its anti-aging qualities.

NFL star Tim Tebow first purchased his mHBOT unit in 2008, and gained notoriety for using it to accelerate the recovery process following sports practices and demanding personal workouts.

Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward and Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps are also advocates for the regenerative qualities of hyperbaric therapy, detailing its ability to cut down on recovery time by increasing blood flow to damaged tissue and strained muscles.