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Migraine headache is defined as: severe periodic, unilateral, pulsing headache associated with nausea, sickness, vomiting and photophobia. Triggers of migraine headaches include emotional stress, strenuous physical exercise, too much sleep or sleep deprivation, some foods (chocolate, aged cheese, nuts), alcohol (red wine), medical conditions and certain medications (anti-hypertensive drugs, contraceptive, nitroglycerin).

Blood flow and biochemical changes play important roles in  migraine headaches. The first phase is vasospasm accompanied by reduction in blood flow causing ischemia and edema of intracranial vessels. The second phase involves vasodilatation of the blood vessels and hyperemia (an increased amount of blood) and platelet aggregation that impairs microcirculation leading to pain.

Studies have shown relief of migraine and cluster headache with hyperbaric oxygen therapy and suggest the vasoconstrictive effect of hyperbaric oxygen is more effective and naturally healthier than vasoconstrictive drugs.

The body normally delivers oxygen to the tissues by the red blood cells in the blood. But by breathing oxygen under pressure (Hyperbaric oxygen therapy) oxygen is dissolved into all the bodily fluids, thus the cerebral fluid, spinal fluid, lymph fluid, intracellular fluid and the blood plasma all absorb high levels of oxygen. This increases oxygen levels to all the body tissue including areas with poor or compromised blood supply. 

Best results with hyperbaric oxygen is obtained when person is treated while having the headache which can be difficult. Some patients with migraine headaches are relieved of pain within minutes of the start of the therapy.

Health Canada recognizes Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for 13 different medical conditions but the therapy is used for over 100 conditions worldwide, ranging from stroke recovery, circulatory disorders, heart disease, infections and all forms of healing.  All conditions have one thing in common: the affected areas are not getting enough life-sustaining oxygen. 

Joe Borlinha

B.Sc, Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine

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