Feeling Holiday Stress? Relax in a Hyperbaric Chamber

 CONTRIBUTED BY MARY RICHARDSON

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Years ago, when pictures of Michael Jackson sleeping peacefully, if not bizarrely, in an oxygen chamber hit the media, the American public simply passed off the “treatment” as just another wacky stunt from the late eccentric pop singer. However, what may be viewed as “on the fringe” in the States is actually a fairly common health practice in Japan. I was to learn this very fact one day as I discovered the oxygen pod in Okinawa.

It turns out that oxygen chambers have gained popularity as of late for all kinds of conditions such as achy muscles, poor memory, dull complexion, hangover and even serious diseases including diabetes, stroke, and cerebral palsy. In addition, if you have an important meeting this week and need an edge, no problem– hop into the tank. Has your lower back or shoulders been bothering you? The pod should do the trick.

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So, what’s the theory behind this strange treatment?

Well, the basic idea is that the pod, known as a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, allows you to breathe in a cocktail of concentrated oxygen is good for your cells, good for your tissues and bones, good for your overall lucidity (although initially it might make you lightheaded). Normal air that we all breathe everyday has only about 20% oxygen; however, our bodies absorb more inside due to the pressurized chamber.

It costs about 1,000 yen and yes, readers– you have to climb inside a tank, get zipped up tight, and stay inside for about an hour. There is a call button inside if you get antsy, but otherwise, you can’t sit up and let yourself out. incidentally you can work on your laptop and talk on your cell phone, but it’s not for anyone prone to claustrophobia! That said, the procedure does seem to be worthwhile for professional athletes the likes of David Beckham, and patients who undergo the therapy by doctor recommendation.

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So, how was my experience with the oxygen chamber? Much like some of my other off the beaten track escapades here, I thought of as kind of a funny story I could tell (remember the fortune teller?), but locals do take it seriously. On the day I went, two people got out of chambers when I arrived, and after my session, there were people waiting to go in. Overall, the time passed quickly and though I was sleepy afterwards, I felt somewhat revived. What I did appreciate was the tea and donuts they fed me afterwards.

However, I wish not to dissuade any reader of this unique cultural experience. A quick online search revealed that benefits of these chambers are being confirmed by patients and doctors more and more.

So, if you start to feel stress with holiday season approaching, you just might be able to melt it away inside the oxygen chamber.

To get there: It is on Route 24. Take the 330 north as if you were going to Plaza Shopping Center. Turn left on the 85 and drive past Plaza Housing. Continue straight and turn left at the 24. Go about 3 blocks. You will see the Tuna House restaurant on the left side and the Oxygen Pod place on the left across the street. Hours are 10:00 am to 10:00 pm.


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7 Comments
  • November 29, 2012

    I like the idea of doing something new and off the beaten path. I will be there this week.

    Tim
    Reply
  • November 3, 2012

    Konichiwa watashiwa baycandesu watashi wa hyperbaric chamber skutteruwatashiwa nihonno koto daisuki desu dakara nihonjinno hito to ishshoni shobai yaritay hoshi watashi to ishshoni shobai hoshino hitotachi mail okutta kudasai

    Reply
  • March 27, 2010

    I need to second Josh’s comments, with some corrections. There are 3 parts to starting a fire- ignition source, accelerant, and fuel. Oxygen in the chamber isn’t fuel, it is an accelerant; you are the fuel.

    Hyberbaric oxygen therapy is only FDA approved for arterial gas embolism, decompression sickness, and carbon monoxide poisoning. There are some studies that suggest a benefit in conditions such as nonhealing wounds and diabetic ulcers, clostridial myonecrosis, as well as a few others but the point I need to make is that there is absolutely no evidence that HBO2 therapy relieves stress or helps muscle aches. Many celebrities and athletes have these chambers, but they are incredibly dangerous. There have been accidents in Japan where patients snuck a hand warmer into the chamber, which resulted in catastrophic injuries and death. I am astounded that the author claims that you can talk on a cell phone or work on a laptop while in a chamber with 100% oxygen! A few years ago a woman and her grandson were killed in an explosion in Florida; the woman was hoping that the therapy would help her grandson who had cerebal palsy. There is no evidence to show that it has any benefit in CP. Or even hangovers, poor memory, or “dull complexion”.

    Please think twice about using this dangerous treatment in the absence of any true medical indications. We all know now what a quack Michael Jackson’s doctor was. No legitimate physician with any training in hyperbaric oxygen therapy would recommend this for anything other than the proven indications I mentioned above.

    G. Adam Jakubek
    Reply
  • November 21, 2009

    Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a growing area of research, but there is no medically proven benefit in treating muscle pain or stress. The most dangerous risk with these therapies is fire. The high oxygen content is fuel for the smallest spark. Normal precautions in the U.S. require patients to wear special clothing free of any metal. And I don’t think using a cell phone or laptop would be a good idea. Although the risk is small, if a spark were to occur the result could be catastrophic.

    Josh
    Reply
  • November 20, 2009

    Awesome post, Mary. I have to wonder just how visible that “panic” button is. Curious, did you ever feel like you could go nuts in there? Was there someone in the room that could hear you- or did the button buzz them?

    Staci
    Reply
  • November 20, 2009

    I’m highly impressed. I thought I’ve seen and done everything on Okinawa. Great post! Very adventurous and off the beaten path.

    Snuff
    Reply
  • November 20, 2009

    Cool post Mary. I’m all for anything that helps to reduce stress and achy muscles but I’m a wee bit claustrophobic and this would definitely fit my list of things “not” to do. Good on you for giving it a go…..

    Jannine Myers
    Reply