Terrell Owens and his hyperbaric chamber

Back in 2004 Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens raised a few eyebrows with the quote,

I feel I’m a pretty good healer, believe me. I’ve already moved my hyperbaric chamber down to my living room.”

T.O.’s been a huge believer in portable hyperbaric chambers, in which pressure assist the body in uptaking oxygen thus speeding up the healing of wounds and injuries. Some adherents think one hour inside the hyperbaric chamber is good overall therapy.

Among owners of home hyperbaric chambers are former Oakland Raiders linebacker Bill Romanowski, Miami Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas, and 49ers linebacker Jamie Winborn, a former Owens teammate.

T.O. shows off his portable hyperbaric chamber on MTV’s Cribs.

Oxygen Deprivation Tents vs Hyperbaric Chambers

Athletic training in Oxygen Deprivation Tents

Oxygen deprivation tents or “altitude tents” are risky at best.

The practice has garnered much attention in the sports world. The debate on manipulating the body into making more blood, equaling more oxygen, is in itself controversial.

However, tent-training poses certain risks that should not be applied to the general population seeking its perceived benefits. Oxygen-deprivation training banks on the premise that the body will heal itself, adapt and compensate for an insult inflicted on the body. In this case, the insult is a simulated hypoxic (lack of oxygen) incident. These tents literally reduce the air’s oxygen concentration to below normal levels.

Under these reduced-oxygen conditions, the body goes into a self-preserving panic, forcing itself to produce more oxygen-carrying blood cells to make up for the oxygen volume loss. By producing more cells, it grabs the few oxygen molecules to itself greedily. Thus, when the person returns to a normally oxygenated environment, he or she will have a kind of boost in oxygen levels (and oxygen-bearing cells) until their body once again acclimates to the regular oxygen environment and the cells return to normal numbers.

Increased oxygen in the body has the effect of boosting performance of muscles. The body, thus enriched, is bolstered with a reserve.

Not all it seems. While this scenario may seem like a good option for those seeking that slight advantage, it is important to remember that oxygen deprivation tents actually cause a hypoxic incident, in which the body suffers from lack of oxygen. Healthy athletes “training” their bodies may be able to absorb this shock here and there, right before performances, but the fact that the body is being first injured and then demanded to heal itself, just to gain a small edge in performance is a bad recipe for long-term damage. In other words, just because you know your body can recover now, does not mean you should continue to push your luck.

It is important to remember that the body does not thrive in a hypoxic state, especially chronically. This is why it frantically tries to remedy the situation by trying to heal itself—producing more cells to allow you to thrive as much as it can during the hypoxic event. The body’s natural defenses know that hypoxia makes systems in the body vulnerable to certain malignant conditions that thrive on hypoxia—cancer growth, brain injury, circulatory diseases, and more. Needless to say, oxygen deprivation tents pose risks that can easily become real threats to the body’s welfare.

Hyperbaric, a practical solution. There is, however, a better solution to achieve a boost, without wreaking havoc on the body—the delivery of Hyperbaric Oxygen. Propelled by an increasing interest in the technologies derived from diving and mountain-climbing, Hyperbaric Oxygen Chambers, have become a natural choice for many trainers. Hyperbaric chambers actually produce a healthy increase in oxygenation, without causing bodily damage to achieve a positive result.

Chamber works. By increasing the pressure inside the chamber, hyperbaric chambers simulate a descent to a depth below sea level. It is like diving 10-20 feet, for lower pressure treatments suitable for performance training purposes. Inside the pressurized device, the molecules of oxygen in the air compress and infuse inside the body, its blood, plasma, and organs. The body, and all its parts, likes the addition of oxygen (versus, a “depletion” of oxygen in the deprivation tents). This extra oxygen under pressure is a very important component.

All about the pressure. It is important to note that oxygenation alone does not yield the same results as hyperbaric oxygen—under pressure. Oxygen alone depends on the blood to carry the oxygen to carry it throughout the body. The number of cells does not increase or change. Instead, these cell-carriers fill up and simply deliver as usual, to their capacity. There is an easing in the body’s workload to transport the oxygen, but not enough of a boost to provide any kind of competitive edge being sought in this discussion. Under pressure, however, oxygen as a volume of gas is readily absorbed into the body—comprised mostly of water. Like a carbonated drink in which carbon is infused and locked, so is oxygen into every inch of the body. (By comparison, think of merely blowing carbon bubbles, through a tube into a glass of still water; there is no retention and the carbon will pass through and not bind with the liquid.) Pressure changes everything.

Benefits of Hyperbaric. Therefore, hyperbaric oxygen promotes:

  1. The formation of new capillaries and blood cells to carry the new oxygen load;
  2. A growth in all cells’ energy producing mitochondria to make use of new oxygen reserves at the cellular level;
  3. And a reduction in inflammation and lactic acid build up allowing the body to recover faster with the oxygen reaching injured sites at that cellular level.

True regeneration. As well as providing these incidental benefits to athletes and anyone training for performance or a healthy natural boost, hyperbaric oxygen safely offers much more, minus the risk. It is a tool that many athletes and trainers are including in their arsenal of training equipment. While training in many ways can be considered a tough and regimented need—to break the body, to rebuild it, and to push it to its limits—it is important to know that not all training must throw the body over edge just to see if it can recover. Hyperbaric is a win-win therapy—an oasis with a regenerative perk…

Source: International Hyperbarics Association’s, “The Pressure Point” Winter 2010.
Posted with permission from the International Hyperbarics Association, Inc.

Life is Better with Oxygen

Mainstreaming Personal Hyperbaric Therapy

Sunny K. Hill, International Hyperbarics Association

“As an athlete the hyperbaric chamber added 8 yrs. to my NFL career” – Hines Ward

Two weeks before Super Bowl XLIII Steelers wideout Hines Ward was laid up with a sprained knee. Wild speculation concerning his playability was fanning a media frenzy in the off-week leading up to the big game. A confident Ward reassured fans that “nothing, I repeat, nothing” would keep him out of the Super Bowl. A vigorous rehab program was usually standard practice to address such injuries, but after the Steelers made Super Bowl history, Ward revealed a surprising secret. A vital addition to his healing regiment included quality time undergoing personal hyperbaric therapy.

Extensive medical studies on the healing properties of hyperbarics triggered this therapy’s growth. The ability to accelerate recovery after a sports injury was reconfirmed when Ward was featured in the February 2009 Sports Illustrated magazine climbing out of his Vitaeris chamber in a hotel room. The photo showed how mainstream personal hyperbaric therapy has become.

Autism recovery advocate, Jenny McCarthy purchased a chamber to treat her son, Evan, but discovered a wonderful side effect of treating with her child. She confessed on the Ellen Degeneres’ show that she and Jim Carey each have a chamber in their homes so they can maintain good health and restore energy. People finally realized that you don’t necessarily have to be a high-performance athlete to enjoy the benefits of personal hyperbaric therapy.

Even if you don’t take a daily pounding on the playing field, personal hyperbaric therapy still has major health benefits. The strain generated by a high-octane life is wearing on the body, both physically and mentally. On a psychological level, a one-hour personal hyperbaric treatment triggers the brain to release serotonin that generates a feeling of serenity and peace. Physically, as a person ages, basic stress on the body produces a constant inflammatory response that eventually wears out the joints, muscles, vital organs, and even brain cells. Personal hyperbaric therapy’s anti-inflammatory properties help alleviate the inflammation that wears out the body.

Daniel Rossignol, Medical Doctor and Hyperbaric Specialist equated an hour treatment in a personal hyperbaric chamber to taking 40 Motrin, without the toxic response. “You get increased oxygenation, decreased swelling, and decreased inflammation, all from one treatment”, Dr. Rossignol commented. “If a drug did this, a pharmaceutical company would make quite a bit of money.” (1)

“Battling toxicity and its ravaging effects on our bodies has become a critical health concern in our modern society,” stated Dr. Kyle Vandyke, Medical Advisor to the International Hyperbarics Association. “Our industrial progress presents itself as a double-edged sword. We may benefit greatly from our technological advancements, but we now are left to deal with the toxic side effects. Personal hyperbaric therapy has become a critical treatment for detoxing the body.”

“The late Doctor Ignacio Fojgel, Medical Advisor to the Air Force and Hyperbaric Specialist, studied the health effects of frequent flyers at the United Airlines Red Carpet Club in Denver. “After only one flight, travelers showed signs of oxygen deprivation. Hypoxia impacted neurological functions and caused physical stress to the body. Unfortunately, Dr. Fojgel’s work was not completed because of the 9/11 tragedy that changed airport dynamics.

Treating oxygen deprivation in other parts of the body is becoming more common. Hospitals frequently utilize high-pressure hyperbaric chambers in emergency situations. However, many clinical studies have produced successful results using lower pressure for the treatment of Inflammation, Stroke, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Lyme Disease, Autism, sports injuries, general anti-aging, and more. The development of the lowpressure, personal hyperbaric chamber now makes it practical to bring this technology out of the hospital, allowing healthminded people to treat in the privacy of their own home.

What does the future hold for personal hyperbaric therapy? With thousands of personal hyperbaric chambers in use, it is impossible to dismiss this surge as a mere fad. In fact, each year International studies keep confirming the health benefits of this holistic therapy. With all the demands that we place on our bodies every day, it may be time to move the treadmill over and make room for a personal hyperbaric chamber.

(1)Interview with Dr. Dan A. Rossignol. Medical Veritas 3 (2006) 944-951