Part 2: What are Complimentary Therapies? Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy: Mainstream or Alternative? Part 2

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Continued from Part 1…

Complementary therapies are used alongside conventional medical treatments prescribed by a doctor. They can help people to feel better and may improve quality of life. They may also help patients to cope better with symptoms. Symptoms may be caused by the primary illness or side effects caused by treatment especially in the case of cancer. A good complementary therapist won’t claim that the therapy will cure a condition, and will always encourage discussion with overseeing physicians. There are many different types of complementary therapy, including:

  • aromatherapy
  • acupuncture
  • herbal medicine
  • hyperbaric oxygen
  • massage therapy
  • visualisation
  • yoga

Many health professionals are supportive of people using complementary therapies, but there are some health professionals that have been reluctant. This is usually because many therapies have not been tested in the same way as conventional treatments.

So HBOT finds itself sitting in both camps, for decompression illness it is the standard and only treatment. It is also mainstream in its application to assist with post-operative healing and burns victims. The 13th edition of the US based Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society’s (UHMS) ‘Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Indications’ (April 2014) defines the worldwide accepted 14 indications for HBOT as:

  • Air or Gas Embolism
  • Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
  • Gas Gangrene
  • Compartment Syndrome/Crush Injury/Other Traumatic Ischaemia
  • Decompression Sickness (Bends)
  • Arterial Insufficiencies
  • Severe Anaemia
  • Intracranial Abscess
  • Necrotising Soft Tissue Infection
  • Osteomyelitis (Refractory)
  • Delayed Radiation Injury (Soft Tissue and Bony Necrosis)
  • Compromised Grafts and Flaps
  • Acute Thermal Burn Injury
  • Idiopathic Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss

There is a growing interest and research into HBOT which is polarising the medical profession with more than 30,000 published scientific papers on the subject. More and more professionals advocate or use HBOT to treat patients with so-called off-label (non-FDA-approved) conditions.

It is human nature to seek affirmation of what we already believe, the medical community eagerly accepts research buttressing a therapy it already approves. More reluctantly, it examines and debates entirely novel approaches. What it is slow to do is reappraise a treatment once rejected. Medicine, is as Hypocrites taught us, a human endeavour; as humans we do not like to admit error.

Integrated healthcare or integrated medicine seems to be the way forward for the supporters of HBOT. Integrated healthcare is the term generally used to describe the use of conventional medicine and complementary therapies together. The terms are commonly used in the USA but are becoming more widely used in the UK. For example in cancer care integrated medicine usually includes making sure that you have access to all the following:

  • conventional medical treatments
  • different types of complementary therapies such as massage, reflexology, relaxation, herbal medicine and acupuncture
  • counselling services and support groups
  • up to date information about your cancer and its treatment
  • and now more frequently HBOT.

It is also this approach of treating the patient as a whole rather than a medical problem that is allowing HBOT to move from the specific world of diving through the medium of complimentary and integrated medicine. We hope eventually to be recognised as a significant utensil in health and wellness.

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