August 13, 2020
Fibromyalgia (FM) is a disease characterized by chronic and generalized pain. No medical and scientific evidence has yet been found that can explain it. The sensation of pressure at specific points resembles joint pain, although FM is a rather rheumatologic or soft-tissue pathology.
Between 2% and 6% of the population (around 6 million people in the world) suffers from FM and it is a health problem of great prevalence. 85% of the patients are women between 20 and 60 years old and many of them still do not know they have it. Chronic pain affects the work, social and family life of these people and can occur alone (Primary Fibromyalgia) or be associated with other diseases (Concomitant Fibromyalgia).
What are its main symptoms?
- Permanent pain that gets worse with weather changes
- Inflammation in hands and feet
- Sleep disorders
- Anxiety and depression
- Irritable Bowel
- Dryness in the mouth and eyes
How it is diagnosed?
The particularity and the biggest obstacle of Fibromyalgia are that it is not diagnosed with laboratory tests, X-rays, blood tests or biopsies, as it happens with other diseases. Only in 1992 was recognized by the World Health Organization and so far it is not one of the subjects taught in the Faculties of Medicine.
As a consequence, in order to identify it, a purely clinical examination is carried out. The American College of Rheumatology holds that to talk about FM there must be generalized pain of at least three months duration and sensitivity in at least 11 of the 18 sensory points.
However, there are other diagnostic criteria such as the measurement of scales. The Widespread Pain Index (WPI) evaluates the presence of pain in 18 areas of the body. You get 1 point for each area and the result can be 0 to 18.
On the other hand, the symptom severity scale (Symptom Severity) classifies the specific symptoms into a spectrum of 0 to 3.
How it is treated?
So far there is no treatment that cures Fibromyalgia. However, there is evidence of results with interdisciplinary treatments. Early detection can improve symptoms.
Among the conventional therapies are drugs, aerobic exercise programs, muscle strengthening exercises and stretching or flexibility, relaxation techniques to relieve muscle tension and anxiety. In some cases, psychological treatment is recommended to cope with the emotional burden of the disease and reduce its effects on social, family and work life.
The Hyperbaric Chamber, a non-invasive therapeutic alternative
Currently, Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is a good option for those suffering from Fibromyalgia. The patient enters the hyperbaric chamber and receives, for about an hour, high oxygen concentrations at a higher pressure (1.45 atm) than normal atmospheric pressure (1 atm). The remarkable thing is that it is a safe and non-invasive treatment. However, it must be indicated by a medical professional.
It is proven that hyperbaric chamber therapy favors recovery in all processes that present inflammation and pain, since, when having greater oxygen availability in the blood, an anti-inflammatory effect is achieved. Likewise, it does not attack other processes of the organism, due to the fact that the patient is not supplied with any drug.
Among its most important benefits are:
- Regulates the anti-inflammatory action
- Repairs the tissues by the formation of new blood vessels
- Increases blood flow at the peripheral and central nervous system level
- Reduces muscle fatigue
Studies in different centers of Hyperbaric Medicine in the world have shown their effectiveness in decreasing the different points of pain in patients with Fibromyalgia. With the hyperbaric chamber, it can decrease from 17.5 pain points to 5 in some cases with very good response. The effect is achieved from the first session but becomes more evident from session 15.
A clinical trial conducted in 2018 at the University of Valencia, Spain, included 28 women who had Fibromyalgia and demonstrated that HBOT at 1.45 ATA achieved better results in reducing pain, fatigue, and ability to perform greater distance in the route that the group of patients that were treated with low impact exercise.
Hyperbaric oxygen decreases inflammation by a mechanism different from the anti-inflammatory effect that is achieved with exercise, so that treatment with hyperbaric chamber may be an excellent enhancer of other treatments in patients with Fibromyalgia.
In conclusion, it is recommended to consider Hyperbaric Oxygenation Treatment either as a primary treatment or in a complementary way in the reduction of pain and inflammation to improve the quality of life in patients with Fibromyalgia.
Advised: Leonardo Ramallo- doctor of BioBarica. (MN 131079)