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What Does a Hyperbaric Chamber Do? Benefits, Uses, & FAQs

Updated: Apr 27

Hyperbaric chamber - The Dearing Clinic

A hyperbaric chamber uses increased pressure and high oxygen levels to promote healing in the body. From stroke recovery to wound healing and even sports performance enhancement, using a hyperbaric chamber offers a wide range of potential uses.

Recently, hyperbaric chambers have become more popular for the vast health benefits they offer. When used in medical settings, a hyperbaric chamber provides an environment with increased pressure and higher oxygen levels designed to promote improved healing within your body along with overall health and well-being. But there’s still some mystery surrounding the use of hyperbaric chambers, especially for those who haven’t experienced it themselves. 

Here at The Dearing Clinic in Nashville, we believe it’s important to remove all mystery surrounding your treatment and fully explain what to expect not only during any treatment process but also what benefits you can receive. So, let’s explore what a hyperbaric chamber is (and isn’t!), how it works, what to expect during your hyperbaric chamber session (or dive), and the many ways using one can benefit your health. We’ll also review some common misconceptions about using hyperbaric chambers and answer some of the most frequently asked questions about them. 

Are you ready to dive deeper into the world of hyperbaric chambers and discover their incredible potential? Keep reading to learn all about this fascinating therapeutic tool!

What Is a Hyperbaric Chamber?

A hyperbaric chamber is a specially designed enclosure used for the sole purpose of facilitating hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), also known as hyperbaric chamber therapy. These chambers are sealed, airtight structures that can withstand high amounts of pressure and allow medical professionals to control the pressure and oxygen levels within the environment, with the goal of ensuring optimal conditions for HBOT.

You should feel comfortable inside a hyperbaric chamber, with options to either lie down or sit while breathing in 98 percent pure oxygen with an oxygen mask. This means you shouldn’t feel cramped or in a tight space. The chamber's pressurized environment increases the concentration of oxygen in your bloodstream, and it’s this functionality that offers therapeutic benefits for a variety of conditions.

Hyperbaric chambers come in different forms, including monoplace chambers (which are suitable for one person) and multiplace chambers (which are capable of accommodating a few people). Each type has its advantages and specific applications. 

Additionally, there are softshell and hard shell hyperbaric chambers. Softshell chambers create pressurized environments at a level of 1.5 times average air pressure, which is known to provide health benefits for your tissues, muscles, and even mitochondria. But for truly deep healing, such as in stroke recovery, you may require something more extensive. 

At The Dearing Clinic in Nashville, we have a hard shell medical grade hyperbaric chamber. This basically means that the air pressure reaches levels two times the average air pressure of our everyday environment, and this higher pressure is known to provide more powerful health benefits by driving the oxygen even deeper into your tissues and harder-to-reach areas of your body, including the deepest parts of your brain and gut tissue!

What Does a Hyperbaric Chamber Do? 

As we reviewed above, hyperbaric chambers are devices utilized to implement HBOT, which involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized environment, typically at a pressure equivalent to going 10 to 30 feet under the sea. 

By combining pure oxygen with the highly pressurized environment, using a hyperbaric chamber enables your lungs to take in more oxygen, which then dissolves into your bloodstream at higher concentrations and forces this oxygen deep into the tissues in your body that wouldn’t normally receive the healing benefits of direct oxygen exposure.

Here’s why that’s important: At its core, HBOT works on the principle that increased oxygen levels in the body can stimulate different healing processes, cool inflammation, and even promote the growth of new blood vessels. In addition to filling your lungs, oxygen plays a vital role in many different metabolic pathways and helps your body function optimally. By increasing your oxygen supply, hyperbaric chambers provide a supportive environment for your body to heal and regenerate.

Specifically, one fundamental idea behind the use of hyperbaric chambers is the oxygen's ability to dissolve into bodily fluids, such as plasma and cerebrospinal fluid. As more oxygen dissolves, tissues that are typically oxygen-deprived receive a boost of this vital element. And this enhanced oxygen availability can help combat infections, reduce swelling, and aid in the recovery of damaged tissues, making HBOT a versatile treatment or complementary treatment for a variety of conditions and health benefits.

Top 10 Hyperbaric Chamber Benefits

As you now know, using a medical grade hyperbaric chamber benefits every single tissue in your body. And that means it offers a wide range of incredible benefits. Here are 10 of the top health benefits of hyperbaric chambers.

1. Aids stroke recovery

A stroke is the result of a lack of blood supply to the brain. When this happens, it leads to cellular damage and often results in long-term physical and mental effects. Interestingly, research has shown that using HBOT aids in stroke recovery by facilitating the repair of damaged brain tissues, with a significant improvement in cognitive function as well as numerous physical abilities, including gait, balance, and upper extremity mobility. The increased oxygen levels provided by a hyperbaric chamber is known to promote cellular healing and enhance neurological function.

Research also suggests that administering HBOT within the first few weeks following a stroke may yield the most significant benefits, with researchers surmising that the therapy can help cool inflammation, stimulate angiogenesis (the formation of new blood vessels), and improve overall brain tissue oxygenation. These factors all contribute to a more favorable environment for stroke recovery.

2. Supports seizure treatment

Seizures are a neurological condition characterized by abnormal electrical activity in the brain that’s often debilitating. Using a hyperbaric chamber may offer relief and potential seizure relief because research has shown that increasing oxygen levels helps provide neuroprotective effects and even reduce seizure activity.

It is important to note that HBOT should be used as a complementary treatment alongside standard antiepileptic treatment options and under medical supervision. And while the precise mechanisms through which HBOT benefits seizures are still being studied, early research has shown promising results, leading to increased interest in the use of hyperbaric chambers as a potential adjunct therapy for seizure management.

3. Supports brain health

Your brain is a highly metabolically active organ that requires a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients in order to function at its best. As such, hyperbaric chambers can contribute to brain health by improving oxygen delivery to your brain and supporting its overall function.

By increasing oxygen levels, hyperbaric oxygen therapy enhances energy production within your brain cells, aids in cellular repair processes, and even helps to cool inflammation. In fact, research has shown that utilizing HBOT improved cognitive function in 22 healthy volunteers by more than 9 percent! 

Additionally, these mechanisms have also been shown to benefit various neurological conditions, such as traumatic brain injury (TBI), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and even neurodegenerative and brain disorders such as Alzheimer's disease.

While more research is needed to fully understand the extent of hyperbaric chambers' benefits for brain health, these initial findings are promising, as HBOT shows potential in supporting brain recovery and improving cognitive function.

4. Promotes healthy aging

As we age, our cells' ability to function efficiently and repair themselves declines. This natural aging process, known as autophagy, is influenced by several factors, including reduced oxygen availability. Fortunately, hyperbaric oxygen therapy can potentially slow down the aging process by providing a surge of oxygen to the body. 

Interestingly, research has even shown that HBOT can relieve neuropathic pain by activating autophagy in the body! 

So, how does it work to promote healthy aging? By increasing your oxygen levels, HBOT helps combat oxidative stress (an imbalance between your body’s production of free radicals and the antioxidants that fight them). These free radicals are known to cause damage to your cells and lead to accelerated aging. But the increased oxygen supply offered by a hyperbaric chamber helps neutralize free radicals and supports cellular rejuvenation.

Additionally, HBOT promotes collagen production, a protein essential for maintaining skin elasticity and reducing wrinkles. In fact, research has shown that using a hyperbaric chamber for three months increased collagen density by 13 percent, elastic fiber length by 105 percent, and the number of blood vessels by 59 percent!

The combination of enhanced oxygen levels, increased collagen production, improved elasticity, and more can have rejuvenating effects on the skin, making hyperbaric chambers a beneficial anti-aging tool.

5. Supports autoimmune disorders treatment

The immune system plays a crucial role in defending the body against harmful pathogens. But certain conditions may cause your immune system to become overactive and mistakenly attack your healthy tissues, resulting in an autoimmune disorder. Fortunately, using a hyperbaric chamber has shown promise in managing autoimmune disorders affecting both the gut and brain.

By modulating immune responses, HBOT can help to cool inflammation in your gut and brain, providing relief for conditions such as Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, and even multiple sclerosis. 

Here’s how: The increased oxygen availability has been found to support tissue repair and reduce symptom severity in these autoimmune disorders by increasing the release of stem cells to areas of autoimmune damage! Specifically, research has shown that following 20 dives in a hyperbaric chamber, patients experienced an eight-fold increase in circulating stem cells!

While hyperbaric chambers should be used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan for autoimmune disorders, this research suggests that they can contribute to improved quality of life and symptom management for those affected.

6. Boosts sleep quality

We all know that good night's sleep is essential for optimal health and well-being and that sleep disorders, such as insomnia and sleep apnea, can significantly impact our quality of life. But did you know that using a hyperbaric chamber may be the exact solution you need if you’re struggling with sleep-related issues?

The increased oxygen levels provided by hyperbaric chambers can promote relaxation and help regulate sleep patterns. By enhancing oxygen delivery to your brain and supporting its metabolic processes, HBOT may improve your sleep quality, duration, and overall sleep architecture!

7. Aids wound healing

Wound healing is a complex process that relies on oxygen for optimal tissue repair. As a result, one of the most popular and well-known benefits of using a hyperbaric chamber is to aid in wound healing, particularly in cases where wounds are not responding to conventional treatments.

Interestingly, case studies have shown that when wounds (some lasting for more than 18 months) were treated with HBOT, 81 percent either completely healed or were almost completely healed while another 13 percent were stable and in the process of healing!

So, how does HBOT promote wound healing? It contributes to wound healing by boosting cellular metabolism, promoting collagen synthesis, and enhancing your body's antibacterial defenses. The increased oxygen levels within the hyperbaric chamber create an environment where wounds receive an enriched supply of oxygen, aiding in tissue regeneration and promoting faster healing.

HBOT is commonly used for slow-healing wounds, diabetic foot ulcers, and radiation-related tissue injuries, but it’s by no means limited to these conditions. By facilitating healing processes, hyperbaric chambers offer newfound hope for individuals struggling with challenging wounds as well as those looking to speed up their recovery.

8. Aids in the treatment of vertigo and migraines 

Vertigo and migraines can significantly impact your daily life, causing dizziness, nausea, and crippling headaches. Luckily, HBOT may offer relief and become a valuable adjunctive treatment if you’re experiencing these conditions.

The increased oxygen supply provided by hyperbaric chambers improves blood flow to the inner ear and brain, potentially alleviating symptoms of vertigo and migraines. By stabilizing oxygen levels and reducing inflammation, HBOT offers a non-invasive approach to managing these conditions. In fact, one patient at The Dearing Clinic reported fast improvement in overall cognitive function as well as relief of dizziness after HBOT treatment!

While further research is necessary to fully understand the mechanisms and effectiveness of hyperbaric chambers in relieving vertigo and migraines, preliminary studies show promising results. In fact, studies have shown that 90 percent of migraine sufferers experienced pain relief and a majority of those with vertigo experienced relief of nausea, dizziness, and the inability to walk. As such, using a hyperbaric chamber presents a potential alternative for individuals seeking additional treatment options for migraine relief and treatment for vertigo.

9. Boosts athletic performance

As the field of sports medicine continues to evolve, athletes are constantly seeking new ways to optimize their performance and recover from injuries. Accordingly, hyperbaric chambers have emerged as a tool that can potentially benefit athletes in various ways.

The increased oxygen availability within hyperbaric chambers can enhance athletic performance by aiding in muscle recovery and reducing fatigue. Here’s how: By promoting oxygen delivery to muscle tissues, HBOT may stimulate tissue repair and reduce the recovery time between strenuous workouts or competitions.

Additionally, hyperbaric chambers have been explored for their potential to enhance endurance and improve stamina. The increased oxygen levels can contribute to improved cardiovascular function, allowing athletes to perform at higher intensity levels for longer durations.

10. Helps relieve anxiety and depression

Anxiety and depression result from disordered brain networks due to an inflamed brain and have a profound impact on mental well-being and quality of life. While there are various treatment options available, using a hyperbaric chamber as part of your treatment plan presents an exciting potential avenue.

The increased oxygen levels within hyperbaric chambers contribute to neurochemical balance in your brain and also help to cool inflammation, potentially alleviating symptoms of anxiety and depression. In fact, some research has shown that HBOT was as effective as psychotherapy in the treatment of depression and anxiety! 

So, how does using a hyperbaric chamber help to treat anxiety and depression? Oxygen plays a crucial role in neurotransmitter production and regulation, and by increasing oxygen availability, HBOT may promote a more stable mood.

More Benefits of Hyperbaric Chamber Use

The list of hyperbaric chamber benefits above is by no means exhaustive, as oxygen is critical and beneficial for many basic functions. Other HBOT benefits include:

  • Serving as adjunctive therapy for some cancers by managing radiation-induced tissue injuries, accelerating wound healing after surgery, and mitigating certain chemotherapy side effects.

  • Treating mold toxicity, lyme, and viral encephalitis by supporting your immune system, enhancing tissue repair processes, and cooling inflammation.

  • Aiding post-covid complications by promoting lung regeneration and cooling inflammation.

  • Helping with the treatment of neuropathy and autonomic neuropathies by improving oxygen delivery to your nerves and supporting the recycling and repair of your cellular tissue.

  • Serving as an adjunctive therapy for ADHD and autism by increasing oxygen and improved oxygenation to enhance neural connectivity, potentially leading to improved attention, cognition, and behavior.

What Should I Expect Inside a Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber?

Before undergoing HBOT, it is important to understand what to expect and how to prepare for your session. While the specifics may vary depending on the medical facility, if you’re looking for a hyperbaric chamber near Nashville, TN, here’s what you can expect at The Dearing Clinic.

Prior to your session, it’s best to avoid certain activities, such as smoking and alcohol consumption, as they can affect your oxygen uptake and circulation. It is also important to inform us (or any other healthcare provider you may use) about any existing medical conditions, medications, or concerns you may have.

During the session, you will be placed in our hard shell hyperbaric chamber, where you will experience a gradual increase in pressure. Our healthcare team will guide you through the process and ensure your comfort and safety throughout the session. It is common to feel a slight pressure change within your ears during the compression and decompression phases.

We’ll start at the lowest pressure, and as you feel the pressure building in your ears, clear them by yawning or blowing your nose as needed until we reach the desired pressure. It takes about five to 10 minutes to reach your optimal pressure, and you’ll remain at this pressure for about an hour.

During this time, you can engage in relaxing activities such as listening to music, reading, or even meditating. Once the session is complete, the pressure within the chamber will gradually return to normal, and you will be able to exit. The process to come back down to normal pressure will take about five to 10 minutes, meaning your entire session will take about 1 hour and 20 minutes. 

It is essential to follow any post-session guidelines provided to you, as they may include recommendations for hydration, activity levels, and potential side effects to watch for (though these are rare). If you have any concerns or questions, do not hesitate to reach out to us or the medical professionals overseeing your hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

10 FAQs About Using a Hyperbaric Chamber

Still have some lingering questions about using a hyperbaric chamber for the first time? Check out our answers to these frequently asked questions. You can also contact us regarding more specific questions.

1. What is a hyperbaric chamber used for?

Hyperbaric chambers are primarily used for hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT). This therapy involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized environment, which enhances the amount of oxygen your blood can carry. The increased oxygen delivery promotes healing and tissue repair, making it beneficial for various medical conditions such as wounds, infections, certain neurological disorders, and much more.

2. Can a hyperbaric chamber help with weight loss?

While hyperbaric oxygen therapy can have various health benefits, it is not typically used as a primary treatment for weight loss. Its effects primarily revolve around healing and recovery processes rather than direct weight loss. That said, some newer animal research has shown that using a hyperbaric chamber may help with weight loss, though more research is needed to confirm this potential benefit.

3. What does hyperbaric oxygen therapy feel like?

During a hyperbaric oxygen therapy session, you may feel a slight pressure change in your ears, similar to the sensation experienced during airplane takeoff and landing. Otherwise, the experience is generally comfortable and relaxing, allowing you to rest or engage in activities like reading or listening to music.

4. How long will I be in the hyperbaric chamber?

The duration of a hyperbaric oxygen therapy session can vary depending on the specific treatment protocol prescribed by your healthcare provider. At The Dearing Clinic in Nashville, your dive will typically last about 1 hour and 20 minutes, with the frequency and total number of sessions tailored to your individual needs and condition.

5. How is hyperbaric chamber oxygen different from regular oxygen?

Hyperbaric chamber oxygen refers to pure oxygen administered at higher pressures than atmospheric pressure. This pressurized oxygen environment allows for greater oxygen absorption in the bloodstream, surpassing the levels achievable with regular atmospheric air or supplemental oxygen.

6. How much does a hyperbaric chamber cost to use?

The cost of using a hyperbaric chamber can vary depending on factors such as location, facility amenities, and treatment protocols. Some healthcare facilities offer HBOT as part of their services, while others may require out-of-pocket payments or insurance coverage. It's best to consult with healthcare providers or facilities directly to inquire about specific costs and financial options. At The Dearing Clinic, you can schedule an initial consultation for $99 to determine if you’re a candidate for HBOT.

7. Are all hyperbaric chambers the same?

Hyperbaric chambers come in various types and designs, including monoplace chambers designed for a single occupant and multiplace chambers capable of accommodating multiple individuals simultaneously. Additionally, there are portable hyperbaric chambers and larger clinical models. The choice of chamber depends on factors such as treatment requirements, facility capabilities, and patient preferences. 

For the best benefit, we recommend using a hard shell, medical grade chamber and avoiding the use of a costly home hyperbaric chamber, which doesn’t offer the deeper tissue benefits of a medical grade chamber.

8. Are there any risks to using a hyperbaric chamber?

While hyperbaric oxygen therapy is generally safe, there are potential risks associated with the treatment, such as ear barotrauma, sinus discomfort, and temporary vision changes. These risks are typically minor and can be mitigated through proper screening, supervision, and adherence to treatment protocols. It's essential to undergo HBOT under the guidance of trained healthcare professionals to minimize risks and optimize benefits.

Here at The Dearing Clinic, we require medical clearance by your primary provider if you have experienced spontaneous pneumothorax (lung collapse), have a pacemaker or other implantable devices, are using HBOT for post-surgical treatment, are pregnant, and/or are experiencing an ear infection or have current sinus congestion.

9. Can I use a hyperbaric chamber if I’m claustrophobic?

If you have claustrophobia, you may find the confined space of a hyperbaric chamber challenging. However, many hyperbaric chambers are designed with transparent acrylic materials to reduce feelings of confinement, and patients can communicate with staff throughout the session.

Additionally, relaxation techniques and gradual exposure may help individuals manage claustrophobic tendencies during HBOT sessions. Also, keep in mind that hard shell chambers such as the one we have at The Dearing Clinic have larger spaces, meaning you can sit up and read a book. It also has a window and two people can fit inside comfortably, so you can have a support person with you, if needed.

10. How do I find the best hyperbaric chamber near me?

To find a hyperbaric chamber near you, consider consulting with healthcare providers, hospitals, or specialized clinics offering hyperbaric oxygen therapy. You can also research online directories, read patient reviews, and ask about credentials and experience to ensure you receive treatment from reputable and qualified professionals. Additionally, your healthcare provider can offer recommendations and guidance tailored to your specific needs and medical condition.

If you’re near the Nashville, TN area, contact us at The Dearing Clinic. We’d be happy to walk you through our process and equipment, as well as answer any other question you have about using our hyperbaric chamber.

Want to learn more about how using a hyperbaric chamber can help you? Click "Book Now" to schedule a consultation with us today!


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