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Alternative Wellness: Mild hyperbaric oxygen therapy

Jan 30, 2024

News News | May 26, 2023

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Editor's Note: The Vail Daily's Tricia Swenson searched the valley for alterative wellness modalities that are lesser-known and have proven benefits. Follow this series and take steps to improve your well-being and see which offerings work for you.

You may see a lot of people walking around with crutches, casts or slings this time of year. After a long ski and snowboard season prone with injuries, many locals and guests get their surgeries done once the season has ended if they can. You may also hear about a way to reduce inflammation post-surgery and mild hyperbaric oxygen therapy is one way you may be able to recover faster.

Harrison Brown, owner of Recovery Lab Vail in Lionshead offers cutting-edge recovery modalities such as Normatec compression boots and IV therapy to the general public but he also offers mild hyperbaric oxygen therapy. To break it down, "hyper" means high, "baric" means pressure so this is the use of ambient oxygen in a pressurized environment. Your body's tissues need a sufficient amount of oxygen to function. The tissues must have even more oxygen to survive. Mild hyperbaric oxygen therapy increases the amount of oxygen your blood can carry.

"In the mild hyperbaric chamber you are going down to 1.3 atmospheres, which is just below sea level and we are only pushing the ambient oxygen which is the same 22% oxygen that we breathe every day, except we are pushing 10 times more of that oxygen into your body that your respiratory system would be able to do on its own," Harrison said.

The list of ailments mild hyperbaric oxygen therapy can help improve is long, but it does help reduce inflammation, expedite wound healing, increase the body's ability to fight infection, severe concussion protocols and traumatic brain injuries. Many people who have tried it relay that it also improves sleep.

"Sometimes people will come in thinking they’re helping a certain area of their body and then realize that, ‘hey, my knees are less achy’ or ‘I’ve been sleeping so much better after doing this,’ because there are so many benefits from this," Brown said.

For those recovering from surgery and going to physical therapists, the results are distinctive.

"I went to the recovery Lab to use the mild hyperbaric oxygen therapy a few days after surgery to reconstruct my ACL and my meniscus. Initially, I was going to the hyperbaric chamber almost daily. I did that for the first couple of weeks and then started to space them out after that. From my first post-surgery appointment and on, my surgeon was shocked at how quickly my knee swelling was going down. I would 100% recommend the hyperbaric chamber to others. To be honest, I was skeptical at first. Never having surgery before, I wasn't sure how things like swelling worked and how long things took to progress, etc. But once my surgeon told me the lack of swelling was incredible I knew it was working it's magic!"

Brown has also seen remarkable results with a client who has gout.

"Gout has been a constant struggle for me, causing intense pain and discomfort in my joints. I had tried various medications and lifestyle changes, but nothing seemed to provide long-lasting relief. That's when I came across hyperbaric chamber therapy and decided to give it a try.I started my sessions in the hyperbaric chamber with cautious optimism, not knowing what to expect. To my surprise, almost immediately after my session, I began to notice a significant improvement in my gout symptoms. The pain and swelling in my joints started to subside and I could move more freely without discomfort. It was truly remarkable how quickly the hyperbaric chamber therapy had a positive impact on my condition."

Another client of Brown's had a total colectomy two years ago and started mild hyperbaric oxygen therapy one year ago. A total colectomy removes your entire colon and the majority of your large intestine.

Someone suggested I try mild hyperbaric oxygen therapy and in my condition I thought, ‘I’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.’ After a total colectomy, you go to the bathroom, a lot. The first thing I do when I go into a new building is figure out where the bathroom is. Committing to the mild hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been super helpful and I feel more confident being away from a bathroom for longer periods of time. I know another person from the valley who has it and she started about a year after I did and she is seeing benefits, too. My doctor down in Denver said ‘whatever you are doing, it's working for you.’ Friends noticed I had improved skin tone and I noticed my vision improved. I can't speak highly enough about it. It is magic, but it is not a ‘one and done’ type of thing, you must commit but it is worth every penny!"

What's it like getting into the chamber? It reminded me of a small tent and Brown explains how it all works and once you are zipped up, that's when the pressurization starts. If you are fine with "clearing your ears"- similar to how you adjust your ears when taking off or landing while you’re flying in an airplane – you’ll be fine as the pressure reaches 4 PSI which equates to 1.3 atmospheres.

For those who feel claustrophobic, the team at Recovery Lab talks you through the process and lets you know that you have full control of the situation and that they are there for you the whole time.

"It's been a joy of mine to work with those people because the amount of benefit that they will get from the mild hyperbaric oxygen therapy, if they can work through that small mental issue, is going to be more beneficial if they didn't do it at all," Brown said.

I did the one-hour session and it was so relaxing. I didn't go to sleep, but Brown said many of his clients do. But you are in such a relaxed state and that alone can help you feel better once you get out. They give you an eye mask and headphones so you can listen to NuCalm, a neuro-acoustic software that facilitates putting you in a state between alpha and theta which allows you to completely relax.

For more information on mild hyperbaric oxygen therapy, visit

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The hyperbaric chamber at Recovery Lab Vail in Lionshead has been helping clients with a variety of ailments.Mild hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been shown to reduce inflammation, expedite wound healing, manage neurological conditions and increase the body's ability to fight infection. Alternative Wellness series