Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an auto-immune disease where the immune system attacks the nerves, causing decreased muscle function. This can lead to double vision, as well as, difficulty grasping things, walking, and even urinating. It usually develops slowly and the attacks wax and wane over time. Because of the immune activity it also has an inflammatory component. Eventually the inflammation and ultimate destruction of the tissue becomes bad enough that patients are unable to take care of themselves.
We know that oxygen seems to have an affinity for the nervous system and we know that part of how hyperbaric oxygen works is by being anti-inflammatory. Thus it would seem that patients with multiple sclerosis would be the perfect candidates for hyperbaric oxygen treatments. What’s interesting is that the research gives mixed results. There are many research articles that show no significance with hyperbaric oxygen therapy, as well as many articles that show some improvement.
The trouble with research is that it tries to isolate one modality to see if it works. A disease like multiple sclerosis has many components at play and “one thing” probably isn’t going to make a dramatic difference. When you talk to patients with MS, however, and they can see a difference with hyperbaric oxygen in the way they feel and function, that’s where you see the benefit of it.
The thing that settled it for me was learning that, in the United Kingdom, they created over 80 hyperbaric oxygen centers devoted to MS. Over 80! That means they thought so highly of the modality that they wanted as many MS patients to receive the therapy as possible.
Even in the research that negated the effects of hyperbaric oxygen on MS, the patients got some relief for up to 6 months after their sessions. Which means hyperbaric oxygen therapy does help. In chronic, destructive diseases, we won’t find a magic cure in 1 modality, but, if we can continue to slow down the progression, we’re still doing good.