The Difference between Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and Pressurized Air
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, HBOT, is a safe and effective adjunctive therapy for a vast array of disorders, including athletic injuries, dermatological, neurological, cardiovascular, and autoimmune diseases. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is also an effective pre and post training enhancement modality, and of particular interest to the athletic and coaching fields. Increasing the oxygen perfusion to the brain enhances motor coordination and increasing oxygen to soft tissue reduces inflammatory processes and is restorative in traumatic and sports injuries. The core concept of hyperbaric oxygen therapy requires the administration of oxygen via a pressurized vessel. The combination of these two components serves as the vector for the positive outcome in the human host. The recent availability of pressure vessels to the non-medical population warrants discussion of the adverse effects of the administration of pressurized air, especially to individuals compromised by an underlying disorder (Reillo, 1997).
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy may be prescribed by a physician or a health practitioner for athletic injuries or endurance enhancement and, therefore, requires administration of said method: pressure and the administration of oxygen. The misconception of increasing oxygen to a therapeutic level via pressuring a vessel warrants clarification. Simply stated, the slight increase in oxygen content of pressurizing a vessel without the administration of oxygen is non-therapeutic and is detrimental to human beings, especially compromised individuals. Pressurization of a vessel increases the content of nitrogen in the inspired air. Inflammatory reactions in the lungs have been documented in healthy individuals inspiring air with mild to moderate increases in nitrogen concentrations (Rosen, et al., 1978). In individuals with underlying inflammatory processes, the reactions are increased significantly, causing exacerbations of underlying autoimmune conditions and triggering release of mast cells, such as in asthma. Research indicates that inspiration of increased nitrogen among healthy humans increases the autoimmune response to allergens (Department of the Environment, 1996).
Further, mild to moderate increases in inspired nitrogen affects cortical responses in the brain, increasing inflammatory responses and decreasing microcirculation (Reillo, 1997). Repetitive exposures increase the likelihood of increased inflammation which is of particular interest in to athletes who may use portable chambers for enhancement of performance and recovery from sports injury. Increased nitrogen may affect decision-making skills and reaction times. It is therefore imperative that treatments be with oxygen for a specified period of time. For example, treatments should not be less than 1.5 ATA for any sport s injury or athletic enhancement and the administration of oxygen is imperative because inflammatory processes may worsen in a non-oxygenated environment. In the treatment of individuals with compromised cerebral function, such as children with autism and cerebral palsy, or athletes with head injury or post-concussion syndrome, the administration of oxygen is only therapeutic at not less than 1.5 ATA in a portable hyperbaric chamber. Treatments are usually for one hour and the concept of increased duration in a hyperbaric chamber for increased benefit is untrue.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is an exciting and revolutionary application for athletes and effective protocols and knowledge of the portable hyperbaric chamber is warranted. A portable hyperbaric chamber which is rated at no less than 9 pounds per square inch, allowing treatment at 1.5 ATA, with the administration of oxygen, meets the requirements for therapeutic training and recovery benefit for the athlete. Manufacturers advertising a therapeutic benefit of pressurized air are misleading consumers in the sports fields. Administration of pressurized air in a portable pressure vessel does not meet the criteria for hyperbaric oxygen therapy and warrants attention by athletes and trainers for whom hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been recommended or prescribed, and to consumers of portable chambers.
Therefore, the purchase of a portable chamber requires consideration of the following: a) the administration of oxygen, b) the highest level of structural rating and, c) the education and training associated with the acquisition from the manufacturer. The benefit of hyperbaric oxygen therapy for athletic training and recovery from sports-related injuries is well-documented and the portable hyperbaric chamber provides an excellent delivery system. The key is understanding what is truly hyperbaric oxygen therapy and what is literally, “hot air.”
Department of the Environment (2006). The effects of nitrogen dioxide on human health.
Expert Panel on Air Quality Standards-Nitrogen Dioxide. London: The Stationary Office.
Reillo, M. (1997). AIDS Under Pressure. Hogrefe and Huber Publishers, Toronto, Canada.
Rosen, H., Soeters, P., James, H., Hodgman, J., & Fisher, J. (1978). The influences of exogenous
intake and nitrogen balance on plasma and brain amino acid concentrations. Metabolism,