What Is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy? A Complete Guide to the Benefits & the Experience

BY: Sarah Gorr |Nov 20, 2018

When the opportunity arose for me to try hyperbaric oxygen therapy at Karyn's Inner Beauty only two thoughts ran through my mind: "Where can I sign up?" and "What is hyperbaric oxygen therapy, exactly?" In my head, signing up for one of these sessions was going to be part sensory-deprivation tank, part 2001: A Space Odyssey, part, I don't know, mountain climbing maybe?

Now that I've done it, I'm here to answer your top questions: what is a hyperbaric chamber? How is oxygen therapy used? What are the benefits? And most importantly, what the heck does it feel like?

These are the questions people want to know before they put themselves inside one. But it's nothing to be afraid of: a hyperbaric chamber simply modifies the air pressure inside of it, delivering 100% oxygen, and allowing users to inhale higher levels of O2. That doesn't tell you much, though, if you're not sure why you'd do it, so read on to learn a little more about what it's really like:


What is hyperbaric oxygen therapy used for?

Since the body requires oxygen in its healing process, doctors use hyperbaric therapy to increase a person's oxygen levels, which in turn can help the body regenerate red blood cells, fight bacterial infections, and speed up its natural healing. This makes the therapy helpful for those suffering from:

  • Decompression sicknes (aka the bends)
  • Burns
  • Skin infections
  • Anemia (iron deficiency)
  • Other injuries, including those incurred during sports or athletic activities
  • Possibly migraines, allergies, asthma, and heart disease, although there is less scientific evidence to back these claims.

I wasn't suffering from any of the above when I tried it, but I had heard it can also be great for relaxation, which might be a good excuse for you if you're curious. I actually ended up twisting my ankle shortly after my session, and couldn't help but wonder if it would have healed a little faster if I'd gotten the treatment? After all, if it's good enough for Lebron, it's good enough for me, right?

Please note: To have a hyperbaric oxygen therapy session to deal with the above, you should ask for a prescription from your doctor, who will determine whether it's appropriate for you.


What are the benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy?

A doctor will likely prescribe hyperbaric oxygen therapy to allievate pain and boost recovery from a number of diseases and health issues. But the therapy comes with a number of other reported benefits, which may include:

  • Strengthened immune system
  • Increased blood flow
  • Improved healing from wounds or skin grafts
  • Reduced swelling from bacterial infections
  • Improved sleep
  • Decreased stress and anxiety


How much does hyperbaric oxygen therapy cost?

It varies, but one-hour sessions of hyperbaric oxygen therapy typically cost between $100–$150. However, if you check our site, you might be able to find a session between $39–$65per hour. Some health-insurance plans or Medicare may cover a session, but don't assume–call your health-care provider to check.


What happens during an oxygen therapy session?

After you go over all the standard health and safety information, you'll be asked to remove your shoes and jacket. I recommend dressing in the most comfortable clothes you can. While my jeans weren't necessarily uncomfortable, I definitely found myself wishing I'd had on leggings or a pair of soft joggers instead.

Actually seeing the chamber was the most surprising part for me, though. I'd imagined something hard-sided and almost capsule like, similar to what I'd imagine the escape pod of a spaceship to be like. And while there certainly are more pod-like chambers, for my experience it was just... well, a giant bag. It would assume a more rigid shape once the air was pumped in, but climbing into the deflated chamber was a little unsettling! I had to hold the heavy bag up while the tech zipped me inside and I waited for the oxygen to inflate it.

But after a couple of minutes, I could put my hands down an just relax. The air didn't feel much different and my ears weren't too affected by the pressurization. Later I learned that many people actually end up napping during their time in the chamber, but I'd recommend meditating or even bringing a book in with you to read! If you're focused on relaxation, though, you might want to leave your phone outside so you're not tempted to start catching up on email.


What are the side effects of hyperbaric oxygen therapy?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is considered very safe and there are few risks involved. That said, the following can happen in rare cases:

  • Ear injuries
  • Temporary issues with eyesight
  • Oxygen toxicity


What does it feel like?

I was a little nervous climbing in because I was told that if I had any congestion, the pressurization might hurt the same way it might when you're on an airplane during takeoff or landing. Thankfully, I was congestion free so it wasn't an issue, though there was a little bit of discomfort as the chamber inflated and deflated. It was nothing a bit of gum or some light ear popping couldn't handle though! Once the chamber was fully inflated, it doesn't really feel any different at all. There's a bit of white noise from airflow, but that just made it really easy to see why some people actually nap during their sessions.


Is it worth trying?

I'd say yes, especially if you're just experimenting. If you're trying to deal with a specific ailment, then I think it's better to consult your doctor first. But if you just want to try it to see what the hype is about, then it's a pretty low-risk treatment to try. Even better when you can do it for a great price. Just check out some of our favorite deals below.


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