Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves breathing increased levels of oxygen at higher than normal atmospheric pressure.
HBOT is not a drug therapy for a specific condition. It isn’t even a treatment for disease. It is a way of delivering oxygen, a nutrient that every cell in your body already requires for optimal function, and it delivers this nutrient at levels that no other tool can do.
There is roughly 21% oxygen available in the air that we breathe – with the remainder being comprised of 78% nitrogen and small amounts of argon, carbon dioxide, neon, helium and hydrogen. When we inhale this air, the oxygen molecules attach to our red blood cells (haemoglobin) and are transported around the body by our blood.
In HBOT, we increase inspired oxygen to almost 100% (99.5%) and increase pressure around the body in our chamber. The increased pressure allows the additional inspired oxygen to saturate the blood plasma; these oxygen molecules are not bound to red blood cells meaning they are free to diffuse into the various body tissues; stimulating, synergising and accelerating healing.
What happens when oxygen floods the body?
When we utilise HBOT we can see:
- Reduction in inflammation and swelling – which is the root cause of pain, discomfort and other symptoms
- Reversal of hypoxia – which is the result of low oxygen in your tissues which can often occur from injury and disease
- Elimination of bacteria, fungus and virus – the source of infection
- Creation of new blood vessels – which facilitates continued healing after the treatment has finished
- Stimulation of the production of stem cells both from bone marrow and neurologic tissues
Why consider HBOT?
The most essential substance in the repair of any tissue is oxygen. The blood cannot store oxygen in the same way as it can other essential substances such as glucose. Therefore, when tissues are damaged, the blood supply to the damaged tissue is impaired and therefore the supply of oxygen is lessened and the time taken for recovery increases.
Oxygen is essential for the metabolism of cells, and to maintain the walls of blood vessels to prevent plasma from leaking and which causes inflammation/swelling and bruising which further inhibits the cells ability to repair themselves.
The use of Oxygen Therapy allows for many health benefits, such as cell growth and regeneration, detoxification, immune support, new capillary growth and improved neurological function.
What can I expect during my HBOT session?
Our chamber is equipped with comfortable seating so we are looking for you to sit back, relax and breathe.
Prior to making any appointments, a member of our team will discuss with you the most appropriate plan for your specific needs. We will take into consideration your general health and wellbeing, and the symptoms that you are looking to address.
Frequently Asked Questions.
Is HBOT safe?
There have been over 5 million treatment sessions for neurological problems and other conditions that have been carried out in the UK since 1982, at similar non-profit centres, without a single serious incident.
We have been providing sessions in our chamber since 1992 and have had no incidents associated with the application of HBOT due to the chamber’s safety record and our screening processes.
Are there any risks with HBOT?
As with any therapy there are risks, however hyperbaric chambers like ours have an outstanding safety record. So much so, they were deregulated as an Act of Parliament in 2008.
The biggest risk we have in any chamber is barotrauma. This is most likely to affect the ears however we can give advice on how best to avoid issues, you can also find some ear clearing techniques in our FAQs section.
How do I help my ears to 'pop' in the chamber?
We have created a short animated video with some techniques to help you clear your ears which you can view here.
Similar to when flying, you will feel a fullness in your ears during compression and decompression. The sensation will likely be ‘strange’ but should not be painful. If you feel any pain, you must inform the chamber operator immediately. We can then stop and allow you time to clear your ears.
There are several ways to help clear your ears.
Valsalva Manoeuvre – Pinch Your Nose and Blow. Pinch your nostrils and blow through your nose. The resulting overpressure in your throat usually forces air up your Eustachian tube.
Voluntary Tubal Opening – Tense Your Throat and Push Your Jaw Forward. Tense the muscles of the soft palate and the throat while pushing the jaw forward and down as if starting to yawn. These muscles pull the Eustachian tubes open.
Toynbee Manoeuvre – Pinch Your Nose and Swallow. With your nostrils pinched, swallow. Swallowing pulls open your Eustachian tubes while the movement of your tongue, with your nose closed, compresses air against them.
Frenzel Manoeuvre – Pinch Your Nose and Make the Sound of the Letter “K”. Close your nostrils, and close the back of your throat as if straining to lift a weight. Then make the sound of the letter “K.” This forces the back of your tongue upward, compressing air against the openings of your Eustachian tubes.
Lowry Technique – Pinch Your Nose, Blow and Swallow. A combination of Valsalva and Toynbee: while closing your nostrils, blow and swallow at the same time.
Edmonds Technique – Pinch Your Nose and Blow and Push Your Jaw Forward. While tensing the soft palate and throat muscles and pushing the jaw forward and down, do a Valsalva manoeuvre.
How quickly will HBOT start to work?
We see positive effects from HBOT almost immediately. The anti-inflammatory properties of HBOT start to work from the moment the chamber door closes and the pressure starts to rise making it ideal for recovery from acute injury and illness.
However when we apply HBOT in repeated succession we start to see a long-term, epigenetic response. This is where the oxygen starts to regulate pathways and as a result we see an expression (or increase) or suppression (reduction) of genes in the DNA. It is in this epigenetic exposure that we see the down regulation of gene pathways responsible for inflammation. With inflammation being a common feature of many chronic health conditions and diseases; this is a key area to support with symptom management and relief.
How many sessions will I need?
Depending on the specific nature of your circumstances you may only require a few sessions; for example following a sports injury. However, HBOT works cumulatively and where we want to see an epigenetic response (such as reducing chronic inflammation in a long term health condition) this will require a longer protocol of sessions. We will often recommend a block of intensive sessions over a four week period. Much like going to the gym regularly to build your fitness levels and then moving into maintenance.
Every person is unique and we will help you to determine the best options for your particular symptoms and circumstances. We can make recommendations and will guide you to the best option based on our experience and wider data; however , we will also consider things like the distance you need to travel for your treatment.
Do I need a referral from a medical professional?
We are a self-referral organisation and you attend for services under your own volition. We do however encourage individuals to inform their GP that they are undertaking oxygen therapy.
However, where someone is looking to use HBOT for long Covid we require you to obtain written consent from your GP. This is a condition of treatment due to long Covid being such a new disease and is required for our insurance purposes.
Can I measure the effectiveness of oxygen therapy with a pulse oximeter?
Under normal conditions our bodies are very efficient at utilising the oxygen within the air we breathe. Most people will find that they measure at somewhere between 96-99% saturation using a pulse oximeter. Pulse oximeters measure the percentage of oxygen attached to red blood cells. As HBOT allows oxygen to be dissolved into the plasma of the blood, pulse oximetry cannot measure these free molecules. There is no simple clinical way to measure oxygen saturation while applying HBOT.
What can I do in the oxygen chamber?
Sessions generally take over an hour, therefore we encourage all clients to take something to help pass the time in the chamber.
You can read a book, (or eBook), listen to music or watch something through earphones on a personal device or laptop. We do ask that you put your phone on silent and avoid making or accepting telephone calls inside the chamber.
What items cannot be taken into the chamber?
As a general rule, almost anything that can go on board an aeroplane can go into the chamber however there are some exceptions to this, such as inhalers, sprays, hand warmers and sealed glass bottles. Our team will be able to provide you with advice on any specific items.
Please note that all personal belongings are taken into the chamber at your own risk and The Oxygen Works will accept no liability for any damage.
We do not allow any food to be consumed in the chamber, including chewing gum. However we do permit you to take something to drink into the chamber. We would recommend sipping water to help ‘clear’ your ears during compression and decompression.
What will it feel like during a session?
There are three stages to the session:
Stage 1 – Compression
Once you are comfortably seated, the door is then closed. There will be some noise as air is pushed into the chamber and the pressure increases. It will get warmer and you will feel fullness in your ears similar to when in an aeroplane. You will have been shown how to avoid discomfort by clearing or ‘equalising’ your ears. There are several ways to do this (you can find details within our FAQs), if you need more information the chamber operator will talk you through these. Most people find that swallowing or sipping water is sufficient. If you develop any discomfort inform the operator and the rate of compression will be reduced or stopped.
There may be a few unusual noises and various vibrations however these are all normal. The latches on the door will make a distinct ‘clink’ as they reach the point of release (part of our safety system for exiting the chamber). The compressor in the plant room may turn on and off which you can sometimes hear. Please also be aware, the centre is located next to the railway, passing trains can sometimes cause some light vibrations also.
Stage 2 – Treatment
On reaching the required pressure the chamber operator will notify clients that they are ‘at depth’. By this point the chamber will quieten slightly as the air inlet to fill the chamber is closed. You can now sit back, relax and breathe.
Your mask can be removed occasionally for taking a rest or having a sip of water, unless stated by the operator for Covid-19 security.
We monitor various levels within the chamber throughout the session; including oxygen levels within the chamber environment and temperature. On occasion we may have to ‘flush’ the chamber to bring these back to our baseline levels. Should we have to do this, we will notify you and you will once again hear noise similar to when we compress the chamber. This allows us to exchange the air within the chamber reducing the oxygen levels (which happens where a mask does not have a tight seal around a clients face or a hose has a slight leak – it is not dangerous, we just like to ensure it remains at a constant level) and can reduce the temperature within the chamber on a warm day.
Stage 3 – Decompression
After the treatment time has elapsed the chamber operator will notify clients that the session is complete. Decompression of the chamber will then start. Again the chamber may make noises as the air escapes from valves to bring the chamber pressure back to normal atmospheric pressure. You may also feel the temperature feel cooler in the chamber during this phase.
Once the chamber is fully decompressed the chamber operator will open the door and clients can exit the chamber.
Please bear in mind, the safety of you and our team is our utmost priority. Protocols may be subject to change due to Covid-19 or other safety measures. Please follow the instructions provided by the operator or staff.
What happens if I am unwell or cannot stay in the chamber?
We always have a minimum of two trained chamber operators on site at any given time; there is most commonly three or four of us. The chamber operator is within audible communication with clients inside the chamber at all times, there are also portholes which we can see inside the chamber.
If you are in distress, feeling unwell or unable to remain in the chamber for any reason alert the operator and if needed abort the session.
What should I wear for treatment?
Comfortable clothing is recommended as you will be seated for over an hour.
The temperature inside the chamber can vary over the course of a given day and even session, we usually recommend layers so that you have options to cool down or stay warm.
I have medication that I need periodically, should I take this in with me?
If the medication is a tablet or capsule, there is no problem taking this into the chamber with you. However, we discourage inhalers and sprays to be taken into the chamber. Please check with the chamber operator or a member of The Oxygen Works team for recommendations.
I am a wheelchair user, can I still go in the chamber?
We assist many of our members who use a wheelchair to access our chamber. There are some styles of chair which are too wide to fit through the chamber door, in this instance, we have a manual wheelchair within the centre that we could look to transfer you to.
Motorised wheelchairs are perfectly safe within the chamber also, however, please speak to a member of the team if you have any concerns or questions.
What size is the chamber at The Oxygen Works?
We have a multiplace chamber, this means that we can fit multiple people in the chamber at the one time.
Our chamber is quite large and can fit 5 or 6 people comfortably. People are often concerned about the chamber being a small space, however it is larger than it may look. It is a nice bright space inside with portholes to allow our chamber operators to see you and you to see out.
If you are worried, come in and speak to a member of the team. We can often provide times to allow you to come and sit in our chamber without closing the door to let you get a feel for the space.
What should I do if I cannot make my session or if I think I will be late?
We request that all members arrive at least 10 minutes before their chamber session is due to start to permit us to get everyone into the chamber safely. While we endeavour to ensure sessions run to time, on occasion we may run late for a variety of reasons.
If you think you are going to be late for an appointment, we would ask that you call us on 01463 240 365 to notify us of your expected arrival time, we will do our best to advise on whether we are able to wait for you or try to arrange another appointment.
We try to accommodate individual requests because we appreciate that various factors can cause people to be late, however we run sessions with very limited time between and we may not be able to delay the start of a session on every occasion.
The Oxygen Works operates a cancellation/no show policy, please also bear in mind that we reserve the right to refuse entry to any member for a chamber session or other services.
Can a friend or family member accompany me into the chamber?
If you would like to take someone to attend your chamber sessions, we would encourage you to speak to a member of the team. We are keen to ensure people feel comfortable and supported through their treatments and often we can accommodate such requests. However, spaces within the chamber are limited and your companion would only be able to join you should sufficient spaces be available.
There are occasions where we may recommend that you have a companion with you in the chamber, this would be relevant for young children, or individuals who may struggle to communicate should they be experiencing any difficulties in the chamber.
Are there any occasions or conditions which are not suitable for going into the chamber?
We like to speak to people on an individual basis to gauge suitability for HBOT. The vast majority of people tolerate being in the chamber very well; however there are some instances where we would not recommend you using oxygen therapy.
Additional considerations may have to be made for people undergoing treatments for cancer or people with COPD.
You should not go into the chamber if you have a cold, especially if this affects your ears or sinuses. The chamber increases in pressure, much like being in an aeroplane; if you have a cold this may affect your ability to ‘pop’ your ears and equalise the pressure within the ear.
If you have any concerns, speak to a member of the team who will advise on whether you should proceed with treatment.
We would encourage any clients who have had sickness and/or diarrhoea to avoid attending the centre until they have been clear of symptoms for 48 hours. This is not exclusively for chamber use and should be considered for all visits to the centre.
If you have any Covid-19 symptoms you should not attend the centre.
Do you offer any alternatives to HBOT at The Oxygen Works?
We can also provide supplemental oxygen therapy via a concentrator at normal atmospheric pressure. Like HBOT, supplemental oxygen involves increasing inspired oxygen however there are fundamental differences between the two treatments.
Oxygen concentrators draw in air from the surrounding room, concentrate the oxygen and remove the other naturally occurring gases. This increases the oxygen level from the 21% available in the air we breathe to somewhere in the high 90% via the concentrator.
Oxygen therapy delivered in this way can also be described as supplemental oxygen which improves the ability to breathe. It is highly effective at getting more oxygen into the body when the lungs have trouble absorbing enough on their own.
Supplemental oxygen and hyperbaric oxygen cannot be easily compared. We would almost always recommend HBOT over supplemental oxygen due to the significant health benefits that are delivered by the increase of both inspired oxygen and atmospheric pressure.
Our team will be happy to help you to find the best solution for your individual needs.