In limited studies hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) has been shown to reduce the pain and tenderness
associated with fibromyalgia and other chronic pain disorders. Some researchers believe HBOT also changes
brain function associated with chronic pain conditions, although the causal relationship between brain
activity measured with imaging systems and pain experienced by patients is not completely accepted by the
HBOT has not been tested as a cure for fibromyalgia, the causes of which are currently unknown. Although hyperbaric
treatment may provide symptomatic relief and improve functioning, the duration of these effects is
unestablished and may be temporary. It is unknown whether later treatments will be equally effective.
In a controlled study of 48 female patients by Assaf Harofeh Medical
Center in Zerifin, Israel, hyperbaric oxygen appeared to aleviate the symptoms of fibromyalgia and
improve quality of life.
[ PLoS One, 2015 ]
This is an early positive result, but not without limitations. The trial included a small number of patients.
The brain imaging technique (SPECT) used to monitor changes in brain activity is controversial because there is
no definitive understanding of what it measures. And the crossover control technique used in place of sham treatment
does not completely exclude the possibility of placebo effect.
Nevertheless, a reliably conducted study can justify further research. As we have noted about other
neurologic conditions with no established causes and complex diagnoses, treatments that consistently provide
significant quality of life improvements with minimal side effects can be justifyable as interim measures if
their benefit is founded on solid science.
In the meantime, patients and their caregivers should beware of practitioners making bold claims for the benefit of
HBOT in treating a condition for which the cause and ultimate cure is unknown.