What is Oxygen Therapy?

Oxygen Therapy involves breathing pure oxygen at a pressure of between 1.0 and 2.0 atmospheres, equivalent to a shallow dive of no more than 33 feet under water.

Do you really have to dive under water?

No!  All treatment takes place in a comfortable, warm and dry chamber, with other people.  There is a radio and an intercom.  And if you wish, you can read, or just look out of the window.  The chamber doesn’t ‘go’ anywhere, although each session is referred to as a ‘dive’.  Oxygen is breathed through a mouth-piece or mask, depending which is preferred.

We do ask you not to consume or drink in the chamber, or have fizzy drink or alcohol before you come along.  The only other ‘rule’ is that at least 50% of your outer clothing is made of cotton, wool or viscose, and that ladies don’t wear nylon tights.  This is to comply with important fire regulations.  A skilled operator supervises each ‘dive’ and makes sure you are well looked after.  If you experience any discomfort as the chamber pressurises, (it’s a little like the cabin in an aircraft as it takes off and climbs) speak through the intercom and they can slow down or stop, until your ears clear.  In fact, speak to them about anything to do with the chamber operation – they are the experts!

OK, but what does it do?

When we breathe in air, only 21% is oxygen; the remainder is composed of nitrogen and other gases.  Even if we breathe pure oxygen at normal pressure, only 21% is used by the body.  But oxygen is a great natural healing agent, and in order to increase the supply, it must be breathed at an increased pressure.  When this is done something extraordinary happens; swelling around attack sites within the nerve tissue reduces, and blood vessels constrict, preventing leakage.  Yet oxygen supply is dramatically increased, allowing repair to take place.  This helps to avoid the formation of scars (sclerosis) which can lead to permanent impairment of nerve function.

So how long does it take?

Each session lasts an hour, with an additional 10 minutes or so to allow the chamber to pressurise and return to normal afterwards.  We also recommend that following each session, you spend a few minutes relaxing over a cup of tea or coffee.  This is to allow the oxygen to be fully absorbed.  You may feel a little more tired during the first few days, so make sure your schedule isn’t too strenuous – otherwise there are no side effects.

Do I need to tell my doctor, or ask his permission?

We will ask you to get a form signed by your Doctor to make sure he has no objections to you starting Oxygen Therapy.  This is usually a formality as there is no medical risk is involved.  It is also advisable not to come if you have a cold or sore throat, as your ears may be affected (although you can still use our Oxygen Concentrators, please ask for further information).  Let us know if you are taking medication, or are involved in any drug trials.

When should treatment start?

The sooner after diagnosis of MS, the better.  Oxygen Therapy is not a cure – the disease is as yet incurable.  However, studies have shown that the therapy is most effective when started early.  Initially, this means a course of 20 sessions spread over 4 weeks, during which time we will regularly assess your progress, followed by regular top-up sessions, usually once a week.  This is very important in order to maintain any benefit.

How long do I need to keep coming for treatment?

Oxygen Therapy is a preventative therapy and its effect on symptoms already present cannot be predicted with certainty.  Hopefully, development of new symptoms may slow or even stop.  But although we know that the therapy works, people respond differently, so no one can be sure what will happen, either now or in the future.  One thing for certain though – benefits will stop if you do.  Should you suffer another attack, or feel that symptoms are worsening, contact the centre immediately so that you can have another session as soon as possible.  It may also be necessary to increase the frequency of your treatment.  It is extremely important to continue with Oxygen Therapy once these have started.  After all, it’s only a couple of hours a week – look upon it as your insurance policy for the future.

PRODUCED BY THE FEDERATION OF MS THERAPY CENTRES