Nearly 800,000 people in the US suffer a stroke each year, and close to one in four are repeat strokes. Stroke rehabilitation facilities all over the country are filled with patients suffering the aftermath of these devastating cerebrovascular events. Physical therapy is certainly helpful, but it only goes so far. At the Whitaker Wellness Institute, we use hyperbaric oxygen therapy for stroke patients—and get incredible results that defy the expectations of conventional doctors.
Stroke Rehabilitation: Gary Didn’t Give Up
A stroke was the last thing Gary Jarvis expected when he went to bed on Easter Sunday a few years ago. But the following day, this 64-year-old woke up in a hospital, unable to move the entire left side of his body.
After a week, Gary was moved to a stroke rehabilitation facility. He made some progress, but upon discharge, his left side remained weak and partially paralyzed. Unable to walk or drive, he was more or less homebound—until a close friend who is a Health & Healing subscriber urged him to go to Whitaker Wellness.
Gary arrived at the clinic in a wheelchair, his strength and balance so poor that he was unable to even stand without assistance. He had limited use of his left arm, and facial paralysis made speaking, eating, and drinking a challenge. So we treated him with IV nutrients, reflexology, and most important, hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT).
His response was dramatic. During his treatment course, his balance rapidly improved, and he regained strength and mobility in his hand and elbow. His facial appearance normalized, his speech became clearer, and he was able to eat and drink without coughing and choking. He also graduated from wheelchair to walker. When I called Gary at his home to follow up, he had swapped the walker for a cane and was back to doing most of the activities he had enjoyed before his stroke.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Stroke: Beyond Rehab
Gary’s recovery was business as usual at Whitaker Wellness—but completely unprecedented at most conventional stroke rehabilitation facilities. That’s because, as I mentioned earlier, the standard of care for stroke survivors is simply physical therapy.
Conventional wisdom maintains that most spontaneous recovery occurs during the first 30 days after a stroke, and that with rehab, which is thought to promote the creation of new pathways in the brain, further progress can be made for about six months. At that point, patients are told not to expect much more.
In my opinion, conventional stroke rehabilitation isn’t enough for many patients. This was certainly the case for Gary Jarvis and thousands of other stroke patients who seemed to hit a wall—until they added hyperbaric oxygen therapy for stroke recovery.
Strokes Starve Cells of Oxygen
A stroke, whether it’s caused by a blood clot or a burst blood vessel, cuts off or restricts blood flow, and many cells in the affected region of the brain die. Surrounding this cluster of irreversible injury, however, is an area called the penumbra consisting of brain cells that are stunned and nonfunctional but still alive.
Advanced imaging techniques reveal that these damaged, dysfunctional cells in the penumbra can endure for months and even years—and that’s why HBOT achieves such incredible results for stroke rehabilitation, regardless of when it’s administered. The brain is a voracious consumer of oxygen, and a robust oxygen supply is a requisite for repair of these stunned neurons. But because of damage to the surrounding blood vessels, there’s simply not enough oxygen for normal function, let alone repair.
HBOT Wakes Up Neurons
The solution? Flood the brain with oxygen—and the only known method for delivering high amounts of oxygen to all tissues is HBOT.
When we breathe regular air at sea level, oxygen is transported via the hemoglobin in our red blood cells, and it only goes where healthy blood vessels take it. But when 100 percent oxygen is breathed under increased pressure in a hyperbaric chamber, it dissolves in all body fluids—dramatically increasing oxygen concentration and delivery even to areas with a poor blood supply.
As oxygen floods damaged brain cells during HBOT, the cells wake up and start functioning again. It’s that simple!
Remarkable Study Results
The remarkable effects of hyperbaric oxygen therapy for stroke were demonstrated in a 2013 randomized controlled clinical trial involving patients who had suffered a stroke six months to three years prior. Half of the study volunteers underwent 40 HBOT treatments while the other half served as a control group for two months and were then treated with HBOT.
After HBOT, every single patient had significant improvements in function and quality of life, and SPECT scans (imaging tests that illustrate the flow of blood to tissues and organs) consistently showed increased blood flow and activity in damaged areas of the brain. These positive findings are even more noteworthy when you consider that the patients in the untreated control group made no improvements whatsoever.
Before HBOT, one study participant, a 62-year-old woman treated 14 months after a stroke, couldn’t walk or do much of anything independently. She also had significant problems with speech and reading comprehension. Post-HBOT, she was able to walk, climb stairs, and eat, bathe, and dress by herself. Her speech improved as well, and she regained her ability to read.
Another had lingering facial paresis, loss of sensation, and impairments of her left arm and leg a year after her stroke. She was unable to bathe, dress, or climb stairs without assistance, and housework was out of the question. After 40 HBOT treatments, her strength and sensation returned, and she was able to take care of herself, shop, and cook.
A third patient, a 64-year-old woman, had partial paralysis on her right side due to a stroke she’d suffered 26 months before the study. After treatment, she regained full function of her leg, and although her fine motor skills were not entirely restored, she had substantial improvements in her right hand.
A New Standard of Care in Stroke Rehabilitation?
Hospitals, stroke rehabilitation centers, insurers, and Medicare should be ecstatic about these study results. Just imagine a relatively inexpensive outpatient treatment with a proven ability to restore lost function that can be completed in less than a month and may be undertaken months to years after a stroke. Adopting HBOT as a standard treatment would slash the astronomical costs of long-term care—not to mention dramatically improve quality of life and restore independence for millions of stroke survivors.
Unfortunately, this research is unlikely to even register, and most conventional physicians and insurance companies will probably continue to refuse to use hyperbaric oxygen therapy for stroke. This is a crying shame because treatment can make a night-and-day difference in the lives of people suffering the aftereffects of a stroke.
Choose Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Stroke Recovery
Folks, if you or a loved one has had a stroke, I implore you to look for a facility that offers hyperbaric oxygen therapy by visiting hyperbariclink.com. If you can’t find an HBOT facility in your area, call 866-944-8253 to discuss treatment at the Whitaker Wellness Institute. Click here to learn more about HBOT and stroke rehabilitation.