Pain Management with Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Treating Chronic Pain with Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) can help to rewire the impacts of chronic pain on our brain, but also to reduce inflammation, while improving joint, muscle, and nerve health through improving circulation, oxygen, blood vessels, and bringing growth factors to the site of dysfunction.

Pain occurs throughout our lifetime as adults, but for some, it may continue and develop into a chronic state. More than 25 million people in the U.S. live with chronic pain. Inflammation is a major contributor to pain, but for those with chronic pain, our brains have been shown to rewire, eliciting pain much easier as we become sensitized to it. A clear example of this is with migraine patients who have chronic headache pain in a process called central sensitization where they become hypersensitive to stimuli in their environments, eliciting pain.


Common symptoms

Chronic Pain can cause a wide range of symptoms, but common symptoms include:

  • Chronic Back Pain
  • Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
  • Headaches
  • Migraine
  • Post-Surgical Pain
  • Chronic Neck Pain


How can hyperbaric oxygen therapy help your Chronic Pain?

The most common type of chronic pain is lower back pain. Essentially, the area of our brain that interprets pain in our lower back expands and becomes more efficient, which leads to more pain even during non-noxious events. Therefore, when treating chronic lower back pain, we must consider rehabilitating the brain as well. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can help with both – not only helping to rewire the effects that chronic pain has on our brain, which sensitizes us to pain so that we feel it when we shouldn’t, but also:

  • providing abundant levels of plasma-rich oxygen to our tissue for healing
  • reducing inflammation throughout our brain and body
  • reducing swelling
  • increasing fibroblast production which are critical to healing
  • reducing scarring (fibrosis)
  • increasing stem cell production for tissue repair
  • improving detoxification
  • increasing collagen production, which is the most abundant protein in the body and is a major contributor to the health of our joints, tendons, ligaments, muscles, bone, and skin.
  • increasing flexibility of joints and muscles (by stimulating the hydroxylation of proline and lysine)
  • stimulating osteoblasts that are essential for new bone production and repair.
  • stimulating release of growth factors such as trophic factor to enhance repair and regeneration at the cellular level.
  • stimulating growth of new blood vessels to supply tissue with greater circulation and oxygen to promote repair and regeneration by releasing greater amounts of vascular endothelial growth factor
  • balancing our fight or flight and relaxation and digestion systems by strengthening the health of our autonomic nervous system, impacting blood flow within our brain that leads to dizziness, headaches, slow processing, memory changes and many other symptoms
  • enhancing cerebrospinal fluid flow

Other benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is a quickly evolving science and the full benefits are continually being discovered. HBOT increases the amount of oxygen in our bloodstream and increases circulation to deliver abundant amounts of oxygen to the brain, supersaturating our tissue with energy needed for healing, growth, and repair. This creates a healthier environment for our brain to work and control our autonomic nervous system. Because of this, the benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy can be found in all parts of the body and in a wide range of ways. Some benefits can include:

  • Faster healing from trauma
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Increased stem cell release
  • Improved brain health
  • Detoxification
  • Improved autonomic nervous system function
  • …and many more

Learn more about the many benefits of HBOT and how it works.

Supporting Research

  • Hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) treatment has been proven to be a promising candidate for protection of the nervous system after acute injury in animal models of neuropathic pain (Zhao et al.).
  • A single HBO treatment caused a short-acting antinociceptive response phase (Zhao et al.).
  • Repetitive HBO treatment led to a long-acting antinociceptive response phase and inhibited astrocyte activation. These results indicated that HBO treatment played a dual role in the aggravation and alleviation of neuropathic pain, though the aggravated pain effect (transient allodynia) was far less pronounced than the antinociceptive phase (Zhao et al.).
  • Astrocyte inhibition and anti-inflammation may contribute to the antinociceptive effect of HBO treatment after nerve injury (Zhao et al.).
  • These data suggest that HBO treatment is an effective therapy for inflammatory pain in animals. The inhibition of the neuroinflammation that is mediated by glial cells and inflammatory mediators may, at least in part, contribute to the antinociceptive effect of HBO therapy (Hui et al.).
  • HBOT alleviates neuropathic pain and inhibits TNF-alpha production (Fenghua et al).
  • Findings support that Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is an effective approach for treating neuropathic pain in both animals and human beings and suggest that neural protection, anti-inflammation and inhibition of nerve injury – induced altered neural activity may contribute to the analgesic effect of HBOT therapy (Gu et al.).
  • These data show that HBOT alleviates Chronic constrictive Injury (CCI) -induced neuropathic pain and inhibits endoneuronal TNF-α production, but not IL-1β in CCI-induced neuropathic pain. Reduced TNF-α production may, at least in part, contribute to the beneficial effect of HBOT (Li et al.).
  • HBOT remains among the safest therapies used today (Heyboer et al.).


  1. Zhao BS, Meng LX, Ding YY, Cao YY. Hyperbaric oxygen treatment produces an antinociceptive response phase and inhibits astrocyte activation and inflammatory response in a rat model of neuropathic pain. J Mol Neurosci. 2014 Jun;53(2):251-61. doi: 10.1007/s12031-013-0213-3. Epub 2014 Jan 4. PMID: 24390961.
  2. Hui J, Zhang ZJ, Zhang X, Shen Y, Gao YJ. Repetitive hyperbaric oxygen treatment attenuates complete Freund’s adjuvant-induced pain and reduces glia-mediated neuroinflammation in the spinal cord. J Pain. 2013 Jul;14(7):747-58. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2013.02.003. Epub 2013 May 14. PMID: 23680474.
  3. Gu N, Niu JY, Liu WT, Sun YY, Liu S, Lv Y, Dong HL, Song XJ, Xiong LZ. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy attenuates neuropathic hyperalgesia in rats and idiopathic trigeminal neuralgia in patients. Eur J Pain. 2012 Sep;16(8):1094-105. doi: 10.1002/j.1532-2149.2012.00113.x. PMID: 22354664.
  4. Chung E, Zelinski LM, Ohgami Y, Shirachi DY, Quock RM. Hyperbaric oxygen treatment induces a 2-phase antinociceptive response of unusually long duration in mice. J Pain. 2010 Sep;11(9):847-53. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2009.12.004. Epub 2010 Apr 24. PMID: 20418186; PMCID: PMC2910818.
  5. Li F, Fang L, Huang S, Yang Z, Nandi J, Thomas S, Chen C, Camporesi E. Hyperbaric oxygenation therapy alleviates chronic constrictive injury-induced neuropathic pain and reduces tumor necrosis factor-alpha production. Anesth Analg. 2011 Sep;113(3):626-33. doi:
  6. Heyboer M 3rd, Sharma D, Santiago W, McCulloch N. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy: Side Effects Defined and Quantified. Adv Wound Care (New Rochelle). 2017 Jun 1;6(6):210-224. doi: 10.1089/wound.2016.0718. PMID: 28616361; PMCID: PMC5467109.

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