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More on Clearing the Air on an Important Medical Treatment
And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. — Genesis 1:3
Last week, I noted how the Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine recently dedicated $21.7 million toward research projects exploring non-drug approaches to managing pain and related health conditions of military veterans and called the development of non-drug options an urgent public health imperative.
Among the innovative projects mentioned in development is research testing the feasibility of a morning bright light treatment to reduce and help manage chronic lower-back pain and improve post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, mood and sleep in veterans.
Though it remains unclear exactly how light works in this way, when it does, it seems to do so quickly. It recalibrates an individual's internal biological clock and has been used primarily to regulate what has become known as winter depression. Now research is finding that it may also help with chronic depression, bipolar disorder, Alzheimer's disease and fatigue.
And why should we be surprised? The power of sunlight has been woven into human physiology since man's beginning. What is being explored is how light therapy can revive ancient rhythms to unlock a pathway to wellness.
Like sunlight, air is needed by every living thing to survive. Just as the light is good, the Scripture also acknowledges the power of air. It is an undeniable life force. Yet exploring its full potential as a wellness tool was not deemed worthy of VA funding.
What am I missing here?
Every kid has seen how exposure to the air can accelerate the healing of a cut. So it should not be such a great leap for us to understand the concept of using oxygen therapeutically to harness its concentrated power as a drug to treat basic diseases and their processes. And it has been proved that's exactly how oxygen acts under pressure — as a drug, demonstrating positive druglike effects on the DNA and other components of cells to bring about permanent changes in cells and surrounding tissues. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has played an important role in healing for a long time, a role recently validated by the U.S. Medicare program when it approved reimbursement for hyperbaric oxygen therapy for the treatment of foot wounds in diabetics.
Since the 1930s, the U.S. Navy has used hyperbaric oxygen therapy to successfully treat decompression illness caused by air bubbles that have entered a diver's bloodstream. Yet the Navy has stubbornly refused to examine its applications outside the field of diving medicine. In the history of hyperbaric oxygen therapy, it is an all-too-familiar pattern.
Despite its promise as a potentially important treatment for a wide variety of health problems, hyperbaric oxygen therapy is often overlooked. The fact that something so basic, so affordable and so readily available is ignored or considered controversial is astonishing.
A large part of the problem is that hyperbaric medicine today remains a very small area of specialty. It has no lobbying arm in Congress, and the average budget for hyperbaric oxygen therapy research is a microscopic drop in the bucket compared with that of the pharmaceutical industry, which had a lobby budget last year of nearly $28 million, according to OpenSecrets.org, combined with the financial wherewithal it has to pay for large clinical trials, as well as the marketing to trumpet results to doctors, hospitals and clinics.
That is why only a small portion of the public is aware of the fact that hyperbaric oxygen treatment is considered to be the only medical treatment that biologically repairs and regenerates tissues, including brain tissue.
No study of brain injuries should overlook this area of treatment.
"It is no exaggeration to say that hyperbaric medicine could create a revolution in our standard of care, even if we used it only for neurological applications," states William A.
A recent study you have never heard of, published in the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medicine Journal, underscores the promise of hyperbaric medicine. It demonstrates the beneficial effect of hyperbaric oxygen therapy in addressing motor and neurological dysfunction caused by cerebral palsy. The concept of using hyperbaric oxygen to treat patients with cerebral palsy is not new. For more than 25 years, numerous clinical trials have reported significant improvement in study groups. It is what makes the subject worthy of additional study. What makes the current study stand out and deserving of attention is the rigorous and multifaceted comparison of this study's design.
"Some patients have begun to use arms or legs that were paralyzed. In viewing images of the brains of these patients, we have seen that areas that previously were completely inactive worked again after hyperbaric treatment," says Dr. Pierre Marois, a physiatrist in Montreal who collaborated on this new study.
Dr. Alfred Johnson, who runs a thriving internal medicine practice located in Richardson, Texas, has treated patients with hyperbaric oxygen therapy for a variety of conditions during the past 10 years. Included in this group are more than 20 professional athletes from various sports suffering from the debilitating effects of brain injuries caused by concussions. He's also seen patients at the high-school and college levels with similar problems.
Though results vary depending on the number of concussions and the severity, he has seen symptoms completely resolved after hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
"More studies need to be done and more funding obtained to do larger studies," says Johnson. "But for those patients who have tried it, hyperbaric oxygen therapy is proving effective in helping them recover from concussions."
The biggest obstacle facing hyperbaric oxygen therapy seems to be the medical community itself and the fallback complaint of the lack of data showing its effectiveness in treating such things as traumatic brain injuries.
Maybe the biggest problem is people's inability to listen.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy "stands poised to take its rightful place in the world of healthcare," writes Harch in his book. "But in order to complete its journey to acceptance and entrance into mainstream medicine we will need a coalition of educated parents, physicians and researchers, and public and private policy makers."
It's on us.
If you are interested in supporting this important work, go to http://www.HyperbaricMedicalFoundation.org.
Write to Chuck Norris (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook's "Official Chuck Norris Page." He blogs at http://chucknorrisnews.blogspot.com. To find out more about Chuck Norris and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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