Can Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Improve Long COVID Symptoms?

Long COVID Symptoms

Experiencing a bout of COVID-19 is bad enough. But for far too many people, surviving COVID leads to lingering neurocognitive, neuropsychological, or physical symptoms called long COVID, also known as post-COVID-19 syndrome or COVID-Brain. Of the over 40% of Americans who have had COVID-19, an estimated 19% of them meet the criteria for long COVID, according to the Household Pulse Survey. This means that over 25 million people are still struggling with symptoms related to infection with SARS-CoV-2. A 2022 brain-imaging study in Nature Medicine has identified an astounding 62 symptoms related to long COVID. These symptoms include but are not limited to:

But new research shows there is hope for those dealing with long COVID. Results from a 2022 study in Scientific Reports show that hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), a noninvasive treatment, can produce changes in the brain that improve long COVID symptoms.

Results from a 2022 study in Scientific Reports show that hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), a noninvasive treatment, can produce changes in the brain that improve long COVID symptoms. Click To Tweet

WHAT IS HBOT?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a well-researched treatment that involves breathing 100% pure oxygen in a pressurized chamber. HBOT allows a person to increase the amount of oxygen taken into the lungs by as much as 3 times what is inhaled with normal air pressure. The blood then carries this extra oxygen throughout the body and brain, where it can accelerate the healing process of any damaged tissues.

HBOT BENEFITS LONG COVID AND OTHER CONDITIONS

HBOT is best-known for treating decompression sickness in deep-sea divers, but it has solid research showing that it is also beneficial for a wide range of other conditions, such as carbon monoxide poisoning, burns, wound healing, and fighting infections. People have reported benefits from HBOT treatment for many other issues, such as:

The new research in Nature Medicine shows that long COVID symptoms can be added to this list. This randomized, double-blind, sham-control trial analyzed the use of HBOT on people with post-COVID symptoms that had lingered for at least 3 months after testing positive for the virus. For this study, 73 people were split into 2 groups with one group receiving 40 sessions of HBOT and the other group undergoing a sham treatment.

The HBOT group experienced significant improvements in attention, executive function (clearing brain fog), psychiatric symptoms, sleep, energy, and pain. Brain imaging scans revealed that the HBOT group experienced increased blood flow to multiple regions of the brain associated with cognitive function and emotions. The study authors suggest that HBOT’s benefits are due to this increase in blood flow and neuroplasticity.

Many brain SPECT imaging studies show that HBOT significantly improves cerebral blood flow. SPECT measures blood flow and activity in the brain and identifies areas with healthy activity, too little activity, and too much activity. Low blood flow is associated with a range of brain health and mental health issues, including traumatic brain injuries, exposure to toxins, ADD/ADHD, some forms of autism, addictions, Alzheimer’s disease, and more.

For example, research in BMC Pediatrics shows that treatment with HBOT improves functioning in people with autism. A 2017 study on military veterans who experienced concussions due to explosive blasts found that they scored higher on cognitive, psychological, and physical exams following HBOT treatment. And a fascinating case study on a 58-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s disease found that after 40 sessions of HBOT, she experienced improvements in mood, energy, and her ability to handle daily tasks. Brain imaging scans for this case study revealed an increase in brain metabolism, prompting the study authors to suggest HBOT may hold promise as a therapy for people with Alzheimer’s disease.

HOW HYPERBARIC OXYGEN THERAPY WORKS

Treatment with HBOT involves lying in a pressurized chamber for a specified amount of time.

HBOT can be delivered in either hard-shell chambers or soft-sided chambers. The hard-shell chambers can reach higher air pressures and oxygen levels than soft-walled chambers. Both types of chambers can offer benefits depending on a person’s individual needs. The number of HBOT sessions recommended also depends on your needs. A trained technician monitors each session for your safety and comfort.

At Amen Clinics, HBOT may be recommended as part of a comprehensive post-COVID treatment plan. Depending on your individual needs, this may also include making lifestyle changes, addressing unhealthy thinking patterns, incorporating stress-reduction techniques, and more.

Post-COVID brain fog, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

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