Fibromyalgia and the Oxygen Cure


Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber

Oxygen. It sustains life. We cannot live without it.

Could oxygen be the cure that we, who live with fibromyalgia, have been waiting for? Could it be that simple?

According to researchers at Rice University and Institutes in Israel, women who suffer from fibromyalgia benefit from a treatment regimen in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber. The therapy is thought to increase oxygen flow to body tissues, improve healing and decreasing pain.

A clinical trial involving women diagnosed with fibromyalgia showed the painful condition improved in every one of the 48 who completed two months of hyperbaric oxygen therapy. During therapy, the patients breathed 100% oxygen pressurized to twice the normal air pressure.


Low Oxygen Levels in Fibromyalgia

Research has shown that FM patients muscles were getting the blood they needed but for some reason not the oxygen. It took longer for the oxygen levels of their cells to get back to normal after exercise. Most of us who live with fibromyalgia understand “exercise intolerance.”

When I started my journey after a diagnosis of CFS and FMS, I believed exercise was a cure-all for whatever ails me….so, I joined a gym, not knowing I would create more pain, more shortness of breath and that overall feeling of extreme fatigue.

Damaged Mitochondria

The mitochondria use oxygen to produce energy; since damaged mitochondria don’t use as much oxygen, damage to the mitochondria could explain the low oxygen uptake in fibromyalgia.

Mitochondria can become damaged due to nutrient deficiencies, chemical exposure (Myhill et al. 2012), or as a result of oxidative stress.

Damaged mitochondria also often pump out large numbers of cell-damaging free radicals which could interfere with muscle metabolism and cause pain.

Aerobic Exercise – a setup for more Pain

If low oxygen states are causing body-wide pain in ME/CFS and fibromyalgia then pushing patients with low aerobic capacity could be a recipe for more pain. High amounts of aerobic exercise in FM typically result in more pain while lower levels of exercise can be helpful.

It turns out that the absence of oxygen – which means the switching on of anaerobic metabolism and the production of toxic-by products – creates an environment packed for inflammation.

Health Insurances do not cover Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Sadly, health insurance or Medicare are unlikely at this time to cover the cost of hyperbaric oxygen therapy for fibromyalgia. It is not one of the FDA approved uses. The total cost of the 30 to 60 treatments required for most conditions would cost 10’s of thousand’s of dollars.

Exercises That Increase Oxygen

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy may be out of reach for most patients, but there are exercises that enhance oxygen delivery while putting little stress on the aerobic energy production system – such as Tai Chia, yoga and qiGong, which are often recommended.

I honestly look forward to my Chair Yoga class each week. Yoga stresses deep breathing throughout the session and I do come away feeling more energized and with less pain.



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