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Spinal Cord Injury

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Spinal Cord Injury

Of all the wounds we can sustain, those that alter our daily existence scare us the most. Losing a limb, damaging our spine, or suffering severe brain injury are probably at the top of most lists when it comes to injuries we will avoid at all costs, and with good reason. If you look at spinal cord injury (SCI) alone, there are over 93, 000 people living with the effects in Canada right now. Roughly half of those are due to disease, but the other rough half is due to traumatic injury of some kind.

The same breathtaking complexity that gives our brain and nervous system its singular qualities also poses challenges when it comes to repairing damage. Most nervous system cells are so special and specialized that they cannot just replicate themselves to replace injured tissue. There is really nothing like them.

How does a naturopathic doctor deal with injuries to these complex systems? The same way as with anything else: look at them holistically and tailor treatment to the individual person and scenario.

One tool our Calgary naturopaths may use in cases of SCI is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT). HBOT has significant proven benefits of all kinds, including enhancing the body’s healing abilities.

HBOT delivers pure oxygen at a pressure greater than what we normally experience. By doing so, it causes huge amounts of molecular oxygen to reach every area of the body. The ultimate effects are varied and widespread, from reducing inflammation to triggering the development of new blood vessels.

With SCI — or any other injury — oxygen is a critical nutrient for repair. HBOT delivers this nutrient in copious amounts, giving all the cells and signals everything they need to do the best job possible.

In one example, researchers separated 160 rats into four groups. Two of the groups sustained a precise spinal cord injury. Every rat in these two groups was paralyzed. They had virtually no function in their hind limbs. Of those, one group received HBOT, but the other did not.

The HBOT group showed marked improvement above and beyond what the non-HBOT group achieved. The results in this study — and others — show enough of a difference to warrant further investigation into how exactly HBOT yields what it does.

And there is definitely enough evidence to use it in cases of human SCI.

Results vary significantly with the location and severity of damage, as well as the time between injury and treatment. (Studies with animals and humans introduce treatment immediately or within a few days.)

In any case, however, HBOT has extraordinary benefits. 30-40 treatments can yield up to a 60% improvement in cases of a spinal cord injury. That means greater strength and sensation to begin with, and possibilities for a lot more in the long term.

The best option is to continue HBOT treatments alongside other treatments. Our naturopaths at the Nardella clinic in Calgary can help find the right treatment plan for you.