Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain disorder that has stumped doctors and researchers for many years. Research is slowly changing the narrative of this condition from a purely psychosomatic experience to a complex systemic diagnosis. Patients with fibromyalgia often experience constant pain that migrates to different areas day to day. They may also have chronic fatigue despite getting adequate sleep and depression. Patients with severe symptoms may lose their ability to work, exercise and enjoy hobbies.
One of the reasons Fibromyalgia has been such a mystery to science has been due to the inability for doctors to pinpoint inflammation in patients. Typical chronic pain conditions have evidence of inflammation around affected tissues, but for many years, research was unable to find obvious signs or markers of inflammation. It’s believed that some kind of stress trigger, either emotional or physical, causes nerves to overfire while pain receptors become sensitized, resulting in constant widespread pain. Recently, more research has finally pinpointed inflammatory markers within an overlooked area, the fascia. According to John Hopkins, “Fascia is a thin casing of connective tissue that surrounds and holds every organ, blood vessel, bone, nerve fiber and muscle in place. The tissue does more than provide internal structure; fascia has nerves that make it almost as sensitive as skin.” Inflammation within the fascia combined with sensitized nerves begins to paint a more clear picture of the pathology of fibromyalgia.
The use of hyperbaric therapy for the symptoms of fibromyalgia is growing in popularity. Hyperbaric therapy has been proven to decrease inflammation and influence the genes responsible for releasing hormones associated with positive wellbeing. Research has shown that many patients experience a decrease in pain severity and improvements in sleep, mood and quality of life. Anecdotal testimonials have reported some patients have returned to their jobs and physical hobbies during their hyperbaric treatment regimens.
Comparative study of the effectiveness of a low-pressure hyperbaric oxygen treatment and... physical exercise in women with fibromyalgia: randomized clinical trial
Fibromyalgia (FM) is characterized by chronic pain and fatigue, among other manifestations, thus advising interventions that do not aggravate these symptoms. The main purpose of this study is to analyse the effect of low-pressure hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) on induced fatigue, pain, endurance and functional capacity, physical performance and cortical excitability when compared with a physical exercise program in women with FM.
A total of 49 women with FM took part in this randomized controlled trial. They were randomly allocated to three groups: physical exercise group (PEG, n = 16), low-pressure hyperbaric oxygen therapy group (HBG, n = 17) and control group (CG, n = 16). Induced fatigue, perceived pain, pressure pain threshold, endurance and functional capacity, physical performance and cortical excitability were assessed. To analyse the effect of the interventions, two assessments, that is, pre and post intervention, were carried out. Analyses of the data were performed using two-way mixed multivariate analysis of variance.
The perceived pain and induced fatigue significantly improved only in the HBG (p < 0.05) as opposed to PEG and CG. Pressure pain threshold, endurance and functional capacity, and physical performance significantly improved for both interventions (p < 0.05). The cortical excitability (measured with the resting motor threshold) did not improve in any of the treatments (p > 0.05).
Low-pressure HBOT and physical exercise improve pressure pain threshold, endurance and functional capacity, as well as physical performance. Induced fatigue and perceived pain at rest significantly improved only with low-pressure HBOT.
To read the full study, click here
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