Migraine and HBOT

Photo by Wherbson Rodrigues on Pexels.com

With the world turned upside down, and much confusion about, it’s been a while since we published something new. Early on in the pandemic we dedicated a considerable amount of time to research into Covid19 and the benefit and effect HBOT may provide as a defence against it, as well as some online campaigning to further its use globally in the fight against the pandemic. Did it have an impact? Who can say? We do know though that we had thousands of file downloads and many more thousands of article reads from over 55 countries in 3 months. All provided free. We have also renewed the website for another year to ensure this information remains available. Not a bad result in my opinion. I like to think we had an impact. Even if it was a small one. It reached a point though where there was little more useful information to add while research continues and trials are waiting to publish and things got quiet as we wait for the grand re-opening of society. So as lockdown begins to ease and there is promise of life returning to some semblance of normal, we hope to bring you short articles again.


Today we briefly discuss migraine. Most people at some point will meet or know someone who suffers from migraine. Personally, I know a number of people who, at times, suffer terribly.

While the cause of migraine is unknown, according to the NHS, it is thought it is brought about by temporary nerve, chemical and blood vessel changes in the brain. These changes can be triggered by any number of causes including stress, tiredness, certain food or drinks and even menstrual cycle in women.

Often enough, medicines such as triptans, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and analgesics such as paracetamol are used to successfully treat migraine along with anti-emetics for the sensation of nausea and sickness often associated with migraine.

Migraine presents in a number of possible ways including migraine with aura (changes in light perception), migraine without aura and even silent migraines which present as migraine without headache. Migraine associated with paralysis, extreme pain, slurred speech, double vision, and fever should be considered as serious and treated as an emergency.

Considering the above and circling back to the primary focus of this discussion, one of the chief causes of migraine is thought to be dilated blood vessels in the brain.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

To recap discussions in previous articles on the effect of hyperbaric oxygenation on blood vessels, it is well known that as oxygen tension in the blood stream rises during treatment, cardiac output naturally comes down since a lesser volume/flow of blood can now carry more oxygen and less work is required to maintain systemic saturation.

This also has the effect of a natural constriction of blood vessels. Because blood becomes more saturated with higher levels of oxygen there exists less of a requirement for the volume and flow needed under normal saturation conditions. In other words, HBOT acts as a vasoconstrictor. Not in the pharmacological sense though. There is no direct pharmacology that forces a constriction as would be the case of medication that does this, but rather it is the body’s natural response to increased oxygen levels. As oxygen debt is relieved in the body the circulatory system responds and only delivers what is necessary. The opposite of this happens where oxygen debt exists. Heart rate increases as does flow and pressure to try and deliver more oxygen through the circulatory system. This is often misunderstood as vasoconstriction in the pharmacological sense however could rather be though of as the body taking a rest in the presence of greater oxygen saturation in plasma.

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

During the course of a migraine, throbbing is commonly reported, and this is thought to result from the increased blood flow through dilated and even over dilated blood vessels in the head and brain. Since HBOT relieves overdilation of blood vessels as we discuss above and in the article OXYGEN AS AN ANTI-INFLAMMATORY AND MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS, in which we discuss the protection of the blood brain barrier through the vasoconstrictive effect of HBOT,  it follows that it can be a useful tool in the relief on acute migraine.

Once again however, we are quick to say it is not a cure. Neither is paracetamol or sumatriptan either though. Most current medical intervention is symptomatic only. Basically, this means that the symptoms are treated until the migraine passes on its own.

HBOT has the potential to reduce the amount of medication needed to treat those in need. Anyone who has taken a triptan will know that for the rest of that day normal function is unlikely. Certainly it was this in my own experience. As a non-invasive and largely benign therapy it presents no real risk and can be administered in conjunction with traditional treatments modalities with no unfavourable interactions. Incidentally cluster headache is often treated with supplemental oxygen as a preferred treatment. Extending the envelope to migraine is a logical step.

Certainly, it is a tool that can be added to the toolbox of defence weaponry available to migraine sufferers.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

©Hayden Dunstan

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