Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is an exciting way to help people accelerate the healing process from physical and mental injury. But before starting hyperbaric oxygen therapy, there are a few questions you should ask yourself and your provider to make sure that this innovative treatment method is right for you.

How Does Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Work?

First things first, it’s important to recognize what hyperbaric oxygen therapy is, how it works, and how it may be able to help you heal from various physical and mental health challenges.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a technique that has been used for decades, though it has only recently been investigated as a mental health treatment. In hyperbaric oxygen therapy, a patient enters a sealed chamber that is pressurized and filled with a high concentration of oxygen.

This highly oxygenated environment allows your lungs to absorb much more oxygen than they can from the outside air. In turn, this ample amount of available oxygen increases the oxygen supply in your blood.

It is this excess availability of oxygen in the blood supply that accelerates the healing process and helps people find recovery from physical and mental ailments.

How Excess Oxygen Aids Healing

Your body is constantly in a state of repair — rebuilding damaged cells, recovering from injury, or fighting infections. But this repair cycle of the body requires specific materials from the blood, with oxygen being highly relevant for the process of cell repair and regeneration.

In a normal state, the oxygen available for your body to repair itself is somewhat limited. This shortage creates a bottleneck effect, where cell repair is slowed or delayed due to insufficient oxygen stores available to aid in restoration.

But when you begin hyperbaric oxygen therapy, your body gets a sudden surge and surplus of oxygen available for use in cell repair, which increases your white blood cell count to fight infection, increases collagen production, and even helps in the process of creating new blood vessels.

Essentially, hyperbaric oxygen therapy gives your body an excess supply of the vital materials it needs to heal itself.

What Should I Do to Prepare for Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?

The first step in preparing for hyperbaric oxygen therapy is to meet with a provider for a consultation. This therapy is provided by a team of trained professionals who can answer any questions you have before your appointment and tell you everything you need to know to prepare.

While each client may get unique recommendations based on lifestyle or specific health concerns, some general guidance to prepare you for your first session includes:

  • Come to your session freshly showered with no scents or lotions applied
  • Avoid alcohol or tobacco consumption, as these can hinder effectiveness
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing made out of natural fibers such as cotton
  • Discuss your current medications or medical conditions with your provider
  • Eat a light meal that won’t cause discomfort during your session

With these simple preparations in mind, you should be prepared to enter your first hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

Should I Avoid any Medications Before Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?

Several medications can have negative reactions to hyperbaric oxygen therapy. These potential reactions are why it is essential to meet with your providers beforehand for a consultation and to be open and honest with them about any medications you may be taking or have taken recently.

In addition, you should speak candidly about any ongoing substance use, as this can cause complications in hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatment.

How Long Does Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Last?

It’s important to set aside the right amount of time for your hyperbaric oxygen therapy session. Most sessions last about an hour, though some people may benefit from longer stays in the chamber. During this time, all you need to do is lay back, relax, and enjoy the entertainment options provided during this time.

Most people are eager to continue hyperbaric oxygen therapy after their first session, but it is generally recommended that you limit yourself to three or fewer sessions a week. Depending on the specific condition you’re treating with hyperbaric oxygen therapy, you could expect a higher or lower frequency in your treatment schedule.

Most people will receive about 20-40 sessions to achieve the full healing effect of oxygen therapy.

Are There Any Side Effects of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?

While hyperbaric oxygen therapy is widely considered to be a safe and effective treatment, there are a few potential side effects that can cause some discomfort. We encourage you to speak with your care team about these side effects, but there are some possible complications for you to know.

Ear Discomfort

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy takes place in a pressurized chamber. The increasing pressure can place strain on the ears, which sometimes causes a sense of mild pain or discomfort.

The pressure in a hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber is typically between 250-280kPa, or the approximate pressure you would experience if you were 50-60 feet underwater. While this pressure is safe, it can cause some discomfort in the ears, though there are several techniques you can use to acclimate to the higher pressure.

Just as scuba divers learn to clear their ears to swim to greater depths, the same techniques can be used to relieve ear discomfort during hyperbaric oxygen therapy. The pressures in hyperbaric oxygen therapy are much lower than what scuba divers experience, so you should be able to find a method that works for you.

If the pressure becomes too much or the techniques aren’t working, you can always speak to a member of your care team to moderate the pressure or try new techniques to clear your ears.


Another possible side effect of the increased pressure in hyperbaric oxygen therapy is developing a mild headache. Taking measures to equalize ear pressure, stay hydrated, and communicate any discomfort to your provider during hyperbaric oxygen therapy can help alleviate this symptom.


Even though hyperbaric oxygen therapy helps accelerate your body’s healing process, the healing itself can still be quite tiring. As a result, many people feel a sense of tiredness or mild fatigue after their hyperbaric oxygen therapy session.

If you feel fatigued after your sessions, it is often a sign that your body is using the excess oxygen to its fullest. Your repair systems are in overdrive, which will benefit you in the long run while leaving you feeling a little tired during the repair process.

As you begin to adjust to hyperbaric oxygen therapy, fatigue typically starts to fade away. Don’t be discouraged if you feel worn out after your first session, as the process gets much easier as you continue into further sessions.

What Can I Bring Into the Chamber?

The highly oxygenated environment in a hyperbaric chamber means that you won’t be able to take many things into the chamber with you. In general, it’s best to enter the chamber with a water bottle and nothing else. Some of the restricted items you cannot bring into the chamber include:

  • Cell phones
  • Electronic devices
  • Lighters or matches
  • Jewelry
  • Watches
  • Glasses

When you attend your first session, the team will go over the items that are permitted and those that aren’t. Rest assured, anything you need during your treatment session will be provided, and your items will be stored in a secure location while you undergo treatment.

How Effective Is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been used for decades to treat a number of physical ailments. Some of the conditions it is FDA-approved to treat include:

  • Decompression sickness
  • Necrotizing fasciitis
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Diabetic illness
  • Radiation injury
  • Acute traumatic injuries

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy helps accelerate cell and tissue repair in these conditions, helping people feel better faster.

However, in addition to the FDA-approved list of treatments, there has been burgeoning research interest in using hyperbaric oxygen therapy to treat a number of neurological illnesses and mental health disorders. While the FDA has not approved these treatments, they are often used as off-label treatments with positive results.

These are among the conditions hyperbaric oxygen therapy is now being used to treat:

  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Depressive disorders
  • Strokes
  • Migraines
  • Substance use disorders

A growing amount of scientific literature has found that hyperbaric oxygen therapy can provide significant improvement for these conditions. Just as this treatment method can accelerate cell repair throughout the body, it can help repair cells and increase blood flow in the brain.

This benefit has quickly led to several studies investigating the effects of hyperbaric oxygen therapy on these mental health conditions directly.

For example, in a randomized controlled study investigating the effects of hyperbaric oxygen therapy on veterans with treatment-resistant PTSD, there were significant and substantial improvements in PTSD symptoms.

Further investigation of these participants using MRIs showed that hyperbaric oxygen therapy increased the growth of new neurons and increased neuroplasticity throughout the brain.

Can Other Treatment Methods Be Used With Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?

As effective as hyperbaric oxygen therapy can be, it can often be beneficial to combine this treatment with other forms of mental health care to further increase your likelihood of achieving recovery.

Depending on the specific challenge you are looking to overcome, there are a number of treatment options available to you at Plus by APN.

In-Person and Virtual Therapy

Talk therapy has long been the leading treatment option for a number of mental health disorders. Working one-on-one with a therapist can help with challenges such as:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder

With in-person and virtual therapy options both available at Plus by APN, these talk therapy methods are more widely available than ever before.

Psychiatry & Medication Management

Psychiatric medications have been developed to help people overcome the symptoms of several common mental health challenges. But meeting with a psychiatrist once often isn’t enough to support your long-term recovery, which is where medication management comes in.

Working with a psychiatrist in medication management means they follow your progress, adjust your dosage as needed, or help you switch to new medications if you haven’t experienced the improvements you hoped for.

This long-form approach of psychiatry can help dial in the right medication and dosage for you and get you the relief you need.

Start Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy at Plus by APN

Plus by APN provides a comprehensive suite of innovative and traditional mental health treatments to help you achieve recovery. From hyperbaric oxygen therapy to ketamine treatment to talk therapy and medication, our team has everything you need to take the next steps toward lasting mental health.

Take the next step in your recovery journey. Call us at 424.644.6486 or fill out our confidential online form to speak to one of our trained mental health representatives.


  • Doenyas-Barak, Keren, et al. “Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Improves Symptoms, Brain’S Microstructure and Functionality in Veterans with Treatment Resistant Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: A Prospective, Randomized, Controlled Trial.” PLOS ONE, vol. 17, no. 2, 2022, p. e0264161, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0264161. Accessed 25 May 2024.
  • Leach, R M et al. “Hyperbaric oxygen therapy.” BMJ (Clinical research ed.) vol. 317,7166 (1998): 1140-3. doi:10.1136/bmj.317.7166.1140