Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Fibromyalgia symptoms arise from poor oxygenation of the muscle tender points and the skin overlying these tender points. This lack of oxygenation results from a decreased number of capillaries (small terminal blood vessels) compounded by thickened capillary walls. An abnormality in how the brain processes pain leads to amplification of the pain, further exacerbating the symptoms. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) can successfully break the vicious cycle of pain and microcirculatory impairment by delivering much needed oxygen to the dysfunctional muscles. A clinical study (published May 2015, see reference list) involving 60 patients has shown that 40 HBO sessions can correct the brain’s pain processing function based on SPECT imaging. Essentially, HBOT acts on the root of the problem to improve the symptoms and quality of life of people with fibromyalgia.
Similarly, in people with chronic fatigue syndrome HBOT can help improve oxygen delivery to the brain, thereby reducing the severity of symptoms. HBOT in chronic fatigue syndrome also increases exercise capacity and improves quality of life.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic widespread musculoskeletal disorder characterized by pain at specific areas (tender points) of the body. This is accompanied by numerous symptoms such as fatigue, sleep disturbance, irritable bowel syndrome, stiffness, muscle spasm, cognitive or memory impairment, anxiety, depression, and functional impairment.
Chronic fatigue syndrome (also known as systemic exertion intolerance disease or myalgic encephalomyelitis) is a disorder characterized by a longstanding fatigue of more than 6 months. This is accompanied by numerous symptoms such as cognitive or memory impairment, muscle pain, joint pain, sleep disturbance, and excessive post-exertional malaise lasting more than 24 hours.
Fibromyalgia affects 1.5 % of Canadians aged 12 years and older. Chronic fatigue syndrome affects 1.4% of the same target population, while 0.3% suffer from both fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. Women account for 80% of all cases of fibromyalgia. Half of those affected are between 40 to 60 years of age, coinciding with an individual’s period of maximum economic productivity. Thirty one percent of all Canadians with fibromyalgia have unmet healthcare needs (2010 Canadian Community Health Survey).
Benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBO) in Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Shifts abnormal pain processing and brain activity pattern towards those of healthy people
- Delivers oxygen to poorly oxygenated muscles and skin, effectively breaking the pain-hypoxia (low oxygen) cycle
- Prevents lactic acid build-up in the muscle, thereby reducing muscle fatigue
- Improves exercise capacity
- Down-regulates nitric oxide (a potent signaling molecule thought to be involved in pain processing) in the brain, potentially aiding to decrease pain intensity
- Decreases severity of symptoms and improves quality of life
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