Frequently Asked Questions
What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)?
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) is the therapeutic use of oxygen in a pressurized environment (chamber) to treat a variety of health conditions and diseases. HBOT combines increased pressure and oxygen levels to greatly increase the level of oxygen in the body, assisting healing and drastically reducing inflammation. Side effects are rare and minimal. HBOT is extremely safe with a proven track record spanning decades.
HBOT is approved by the FDA for 14 conditions in the U.S. Insurance providers will cover the cost in some situations. Many more conditions are being researched and effectively treated all over the world. HBOT improves the body's natural healing process by giving cells the oxygen they need to function, repair, heal and regenerate.
HBOT has been shown to enhance vascular health through the growth of new blood vessels, and promote healing by regulating inflammation.
How does it work?
HBOT is done by inhaling 100% oxygen in a pressurized chamber. Every cell in the body needs oxygen to function. Tissues that are hypoxic, or lacking oxygen, are susceptible to damage, dysfunction, disease, and even death (necrosis). If red blood cells, the normal carriers of oxygen in the body, can’t deliver -- problems can arise. HBOT supercharges healing by dissolving oxygen into the liquid part of the blood (plasma) and increasing tissue tension. This means oxygen saturates the body, reaching deeper into tissue than normal. After prolonged exposure (frequent sessions in a series), the body actually grows a new network of blood vessels, delivering oxygen better after treatment is complete. HBOT creates permanent changes in the body that improve health outcomes. The process promotes systemic healing, cell function, stem cell production, anti-inflammatory responses, new vessel growth, brain health, immune functioning, and accelerated healing, among other effects.
Do you feel anything?
During a session, you may notice a gentle popping or clearing sensation in your ears (similar to being on an airplane or driving to elevation) as your ears equalize the pressure. This is normal and desired. Beyond that, you won't notice the changes in atmospheric pressure when inside the chamber.
In terms of effects, everyone responds differently to HBOT. Over a course of treatments, patients have reported shortened recovery and healing periods, reduction of pain, increased energy, decreased fatigue and brain fog, and mood enhancement. Concussion cases and other traumatic brain injury patients have reported a significant reduction or complete elimination of symptoms. We've also been informed by our patients that it decreases their pain, neuropathy, and arthritis symptoms, and helps skin conditions. Many report feeling rejuvenated and looking younger as well. Our individual case reports have been corroborated by a large body of general scientific studies on HBOT for various conditions. See our "Resources" page for more information.
Do I need a consultation or prescription before getting HBOT?
Yes, both. We’ll ask a few quick questions to make sure you’re cleared for HBOT. Since O2 is considered a drug you do need a prescription, but our auto-prescription system makes it easy. If you’re coming on the recommendation of a doctor, they can provide the prescription and we may speak with them before starting therapy. We consult with our medical advisor about the best protocol for your situation.
Is oxygen good for me?
Absolutely. Almost anyone can benefit from HBOT, even if they don’t have a health condition. Cells in the body depend on oxygen to survive, repair, and function. We already breathe oxygen at 21% normally (urban areas can be as low as 15%). But our red blood cells, which transport it from the lungs to the rest of the body, are mostly saturated with O2 at normal pressure already. They can only carry so much. With HBOT, you breathe 100% oxygen, which dissolves into the plasma (water) of the blood. The increased air pressure means your body gets approximately 1200% of normal oxygen level.
Why can’t I just breathe pure oxygen? Why do I need pressure?
The pressure allows the oxygen to infuse into the blood
plasma, or liquid, which makes up over 50% of blood volume. Plasma reaches areas that your red blood cells may not. Your RBCs are already 90-99% saturated with O2 at sea level pressure--the air we normally breathe. Red blood cells are large and tend to clump together, so any narrowing of the blood vessels (arteriosclerosis) will restrict their movement, and therefore oxygen transportation. Plasma can reach deep into tissues and supply cells that may not be accessible by the existing network of capillaries and vessels in your body. This process can only happen in a hyperbaric environment. In addition, after a series of HBOT treatments your body begins to grow new blood vessels and capillaries, making O2 delivery more effective after you complete a series.
Doesn’t the whole chamber have to be filled with O2?
No. You get the same benefit breathing oxygen through a mask as you do in a chamber pressurized with O2. Oxygen is absorbed through your lungs, not your skin.
When you breathe through our mask,100% oxygen is being administered at over 3 times the flow rate compared to regular breathing.
What happens during a session at OxygenWELL?
On your first visit, you will arrive 20 min early to the office to fill out forms and get an orientation by the technician. All devices, battery-operated electronics, and metal objects (jewelry, etc.) are removed before you entering the chamber. We provide baskets and lockers for personal belongings. You will be able to select entertainment (Netflix or Youtube) to watch during your session if you like; or you may read, meditate, or simply nap. The session will last approximately 75 minutes, during which you’ll wear a mask and breathe 100% medical grade oxygen. The technician will be present and monitor you during the session.
Once you enter the chamber, the session begins. A specialized air compressor pumps filtered air into the tank and begins pressurizing it. Once full pressure reached, a release valve opens and maintains the tank at that level. At 15 minutes under pressure, the tech gives a signal and the medical-grade oxygen mask is put on. The mask is fed directly from an O2 tank outside containing 100% pure oxygen. The tech will pressurize and depressurize the chamber for each session, and assist you with any needs. There are also internal valves to manually depressurize the chamber from the inside, if needed.
Afterwards, you simply exit the chamber, gather your belongings, and be on your way!
Is it safe?
Completely. HBOT has a very good safety track record, particularly when compared to other invasive therapies, surgeries, and drugs. Our main concern is ear discomfort, which may affect some patients in the pressurized environment. It is typically easy to clear and most patients adjust to the pressure changes without issue. Some conditions such as collapsed lung, sinus or heart surgery, and others are contraindicated (not advised). We will go over everything in your initial phone consultation and ensure you’re clear to receive therapy.
What if I’m claustrophobic?
Many people think they’re claustrophobic, but are not. We spend time daily in small spaces --cars, elevators, trains, planes and public places, and because we’re used to them, we don’t think about it. It’s common to be uncomfortable in small spaces, but most people are not true claustrophobes (a diagnosed condition). A hyperbaric chamber may be an unfamiliar space, but the majority of our patients become comfortable quickly and enjoy treatment. We help by providing a relaxing environment with trained technicians that will safely conduct your session. Our record is impeccable. HBOT is extremely safe and the chambers we use are commercial grade with multiple safety features built-in. They are spacious with room to move around, sit up, lie down, and fully stretch. Some patients nap, read, meditate, or watch entertainment we provide. A technician is always present and able to get you out of the chamber whenever you choose, though you’ll get the most benefit doing the full session (75-90 minutes). Most patients do great in the chamber, even on their first session having never been in one before.
If you think you might be claustrophobic or have anxiety, we recommend visiting our center first to get a feel for the chambers and what it’s like inside before booking an appointment.
How many sessions do I need to do? How often?
It depends. For general health and maintenance, as little as 5 and up to 40 sessions can provide benefit. For specific disease and health conditions, we will consult with you but the general recommended protocol is 20-40 sessions. This has been established by a large volume of research on HBOT and clinical trials. Since oxygen therapy works cumulatively, the more frequently you can visit, the better. Some patients come 5 days a week, even twice per day for severe conditions. We recommend 3-5 visits per week, less than 3 doesn’t provide the optimal benefit of HBOT, but is still better than none.
Who administers the session? Is there a doctor?
We have an off-site medical advisor that provides consultations, dictates therapy guidelines, and helps plan individual protocols. At the center, trained hyperbaric technicians operate the chambers and assist and monitor patients, according to the protocol specified for each patient. If you have specific medical questions, we will direct you to our medical advisor.
How does oxygen help heal?
Cells in the body need oxygen to survive and thrive. In tissue that is oxygen-starved (apoxic), cells become vulnerable to disease and pathogens. Inflammation and swelling further depress the body’s ability to fight off infection, heal, and function normally. Research has shown HBOT to decrease inflammation, increase blood flow, shorten healing times, fortify the immune response, and stimulate the production of new blood vessels, stem cells, and tissue.