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Reflex sympathetic disorder (RSD) is a chronic pain disorder characterized by tenderness, sensitivity to light touch, weakness, skin color and temperature changes, muscle atrophy, swelling, abnormal sweating, and pain – – often described as a burning sensation – – in an extremity. The symptoms often lead to depression in the sufferer and while the cause remains unknown, RSD often follows a trauma or triggering event. The triggering event can be as mundane as a fall or sprain or a more severe injury such as from a knife or bullet wound. It can be triggered by heart problems, infection, surgery, or other spinal disorders.

Men and women alike are subject to RSD, although women represent the majority of sufferers. Similarly, while individuals of all ages are at risk, most symptoms develop in the thirties or forties.

Conventional treatment for RSD pain

For most, treatment for RSD focuses on alleviating the symptoms without ever trying to cure the actual problem. Treatment often revolves around pain management alone with medications and antidepressants being prescribed. Treatment for RSD pain is usually greater in the earliest stages of the disease. If the patient fails to respond to these efforts, treatment may escalate to morphine pump implants or spinal stimulators, both of which require continual physician supervision. A nerve blocking anesthetic may be injected into a specialized area within the involuntary nervous system. At times, surgical intervention may even be used to interrupt the nerves of the involuntary nervous system.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy as treatment for RSD pain

The good news, is there is another option available to RSD sufferers; one which doesn’t involve constant doses of medication or injections. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy, or HBOT, is an FDA-approved therapy proven to be a very viable treatment for RSD pain. HBOT treatment involves the patient being placed in a pressurized hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber where he or she can breathe in pure oxygen. This chamber may be made of rigid or flexible material and is designed to help deliver 100% pure oxygen to its occupant. Inside hyperbaric oxygen chambers, the air pressure is increased to three times above the normal air pressure. This higher air pressure allows your lungs to take in more oxygen than they could at normal air pressure.

As you breathe, your blood will carry this oxygen through your body to help speed and enhance your body’s healing. One effect of HBOT is experiencing an increase in oxygen transport capacity of your blood. During HBOT treatment for RSD pain, the pure oxygen molecules will be able to reach beyond your blood to all body fluids and even bone and tissues that can’t be accessed by red blood cells.

Hyperbaric oxygen treatments have been found to reduce the pain and swelling associated with RSD. Many who receive HBOT treatment for RSD pain find that they experience their first full night’s sleep in years after only a few treatments. What’s more: This is all possible without turning to injections, surgical implants, or narcotics. In fact, patients have found HBOT treatment to help lower their need for narcotics and even improve their thinking. As the swelling and pain diminishes, you’ll be able to begin other RSD treatments such as physical therapy to help regain muscle strength and mobility.

In a study conducted by the Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation at the Gulhane Military Medical Academy, 71 patients were divided into two groups. The control group consisted of 34 patients with the remaining 37 given HBOT treatment. The control group was placed into a hyperbaric chamber but breathed only normal air during treatment. After 15 treatments both groups were examined for pain, oedema, and range of motion. The results found a significant decrease in pain and oedema and increase in range of motion among the HBOT participants.

Additional benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy include the fact that it is a recognized treatment for RSD pain among 13 other conditions by Medicare and is thus reimbursable. If you’re suffering from the symptoms of RSD and tired of the continual stream of narcotics and injections, it may be time to look into hyperbaric oxygen treatment centers as a non-invasive treatment for RSD pain.