I have heard a lot about Oxygen Therapy within the MS community and its possible benefits.
It is not something altogether alien with the rest of the world. Some of you may recall the 2006 World Cup, where there was a risk of Wayne Rooney not making the England team, due to his foot. He and the rest of the nation put their faith into the assistance of Oxygen Therapy and it was thought to have accelerated the healing process; thus allowing him to play. It has also since been used by other Premier League footballers and clubs; whom are mentioned later.
It has always been something that has intrigued me and something I have always wanted to try, as my mind set was, "Well, it's only Oxygen, so what harm can it do?"
We are more than happy to inject ourselves and take numerous tablets and pills on a daily basis, so why not give Oxygen a go I thought.
Luckily, where I live in Manchester is very close to "The North West MS Therapy Centre" which is located in Trafford. This is one of the many locations in the UK where you can get Hyper Baric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT). The centre does not exclusively just have Oxygen Therapy, it also has many other treatments/therapies, which are detailed on this site, under "Centres to Visit".
I spoke with Barbara Cartwright, Centre Manager and she explained how it works. You basically do three sessions a week for five weeks; this giving you 15 one hour sessions in total. At the end of this you decide how you feel about it and if you want to go on.
Before you can do anything you need your GP to complete and sign a form stating that you are ok to have the treatment. This is usually very straight forward.
At the start of the treatment you are asked to complete a questionnaire which evaluates your current status in terms of symptoms and your current health in relation to your MS, this again is done at the halfway stage. This is to evaluate if or what affect the Oxygen is having. It is also to see what "depth" is ideal. What I mean by this is that, when in the tank, the pressure in the tank is changed so that you are theoretically at either 16ft depth or 24ft. You start at 16, and then move to 24ft if required. This is based on the questionnaire, the centre manager and how you feel.
I started off in the 16ft tank. Below is a picture of the tank.
I must also add at this point, when doing the therapy, there is a need for a mask, which you will use to breathe the oxygen. As seen above, even though you are in a tank, you still breathe in and out via your own mask, which are via two pipes attached to your mask.
So, I started this. I went in to it with a Positive mindset, but also with objectivity. I wanted to have an open mind. That way I could reach a fair conclusion.
In my first session I found that it was important to take something to read with you, as even though there are others in there with you, you'll find it's difficult to talk when wearing an Oxygen mask!
Initially I don't know if I felt anything. But what I did notice was my bones. What I mean is that, I usually crack my knuckles, which yes is an annoying habit, but regardless I do. I found that within minutes of breathing the Oxygen my bones felt recharged and I had a fresh batch of cracking ready. I hope that makes sense? After a few more sessions this continued. I did also feel tired afterwards, so it's always good to have a sit down and relax afterwards. It was the kinda tiredness which you get when you've spent a day at the seaside.
According to my theory I'm putting this down to the comparison of breathing in fresh sea air which in some way I am assuming is similar to having the oxygen therapy for an hour.
At the half way stage after consulting Barbara and doing the questionnaire, I decided to up my dosage, by going into the 24ft tank. As I mentioned earlier that you start of in the 16ft and then move to the 24ft tank, based on how you felt. I like to call the 24ft tank, the old school tank privately, as it's the one that seems to have in all those who have being doing it a while and all those who said they feel the benefits.
On my first day in the 24ft tank I must admit that I felt a tingly feeling in my hands while in the tank. I saw this as a Positive sign, as it showed that there was something going on as a result of the oxygen.
By now I was on my eighth session and must also admit my legs were feeling stiffer and the spasticity was getting worse. I believed this to be due to the progression of my condition and the time of year it was, as it was cold. However, I did feel it, so made a note of it. As I went on I also started to feel more fatigued after coming out of the tank. I accepted this as part of the treatment. It didn't last all day, but just after the therapy, so I would hang about for a while after the oxygen, have chat to the guys and reenergise myself.
I also tried having Physio and/or Thai massage either side of treatment on a couple of occasions to see if this made a difference. As my theory was that maybe the massage would stretch out the muscles and the oxygen in turn would do its magic and reach places it seldom reached. On one occasion I thought this made a difference, but after trying it on another couple of occasions I realised this was probably just a coincidence or maybe a day when my body was having a good day.
As I came towards the end of my sessions I was self evaluating my experience and deciding on whether or not I would continue beyond the initial 15 sessions. Overall I felt that the experience was good, but I felt no real change to my condition and felt no better than before I started.
Apart from the tiredness I felt immediately after coming out of the tank, the only other thing I felt was the stiffness in my legs, which I believed was more profound than before I started.
I really enjoyed my experience with the therapy and love the job that all the staff and volunteers do at the centre. Also, the many other therapies that are carried out at the centre, some of which I use, I believe are fantastic and the centre itself is great for the MS community. I will continue to use the centre and use the facilities and have a coffee and chat with those that use the centre, but don't feel that the Oxygen therapy is for me.
To not continue with the oxygen therapy is a personal decision and one based on my own experiences. There are many people at the centre who use the Oxygen Therapy and are really passionate about it, as they feel it makes a positive difference to their MS and personal well being.
In conclusion I believe it goes back down to ourselves and how we feel. MS is not only a personal condition, but quite different for everyone who has it, this makes it difficult to come up with a one size fits all solution. We can see this by the number of different types of drugs there are available.
W each need to do what we feel is best for us. I believe in trying different things and sticking to the ones that help us the most.
Here are some websites that can give info on the topic of Alternative treatments and therapies
Here is an interview that I did with Barbara from the Therapy centre, she talks about Oxygen Therapy and her experiences at the centre.
(VIDEO – COMING SOON)