Initial research on using hyperbaric oxygen treatment to help arthritis joint pain, especially from rheumatoid arthritis, looks promising.
Writing for Patients Medical, Dr. Rashmi Gulati,
a specialist in integrative medicine based in New York, says more studies are concluding that hyperbaric oxygen therapy can be "markedly superior to routine treatment of RA."
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"Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has become a standard of practice for RA in many countries," she noted. "Clinical practice has proved that hyperbaric oxygen therapy has good effects on analgesia, lowering blood sedimentation rate, stabilizing immunologic function, and strengthening the body's resistance for eliminating pathogenic factors. It is also beneficial for the repair of the diseased joints."
She also said such therapy can inhibit the progression of rheumatoid arthritis and suppress the inflammation that goes along with the disorder, adding that having hyperbaric oxygen therapy daily can work on a disease even if it has fully developed.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy works by allowing a patient to breathe pure oxygen through a tube or in a pressurized room. It is used to treat things like decompression sickness as well as to help infections. In a chamber, the air pressure is raised to three times that in normal air pressure, allowing your lungs to absorb more oxygen, which carries through your body to promote healing, The Mayo Clinic said.
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While some doctors tout the effectiveness of hyperbaric oxygen therapy, many insurance carriers in the U.S., including Aetna, consider it "experimental and investigational"
for conditions including arthritis.
Aetna, on its website, notes that such treatment is not always covered "because there is insufficient evidence in the medical literature establishing that systemic HBOT is more effective than conventional therapies."
Research on animals has found hyperbaric oxygen treatment shows success.
A 2007 study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information
found that "hyperbaric oxygen treatment decreases pain and inflammation in an animal model of arthritis."
The abstract noted: "The effect of hyperbaric oxygen treatment is very similar in magnitude to the effect of acetylsalicylic acid treatment. Potentially, hyperbaric oxygen could be used to treat pain and inflammation in patients with arthritis."
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