Shai Efrati, MD: Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy as a Promising Treatment for Fibromyalgia

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Shai Efrati, MD, explains how his research aims to address the root cause of fibromyalgia: damaged brain tissue.

Fibromyalgia is a multifaceted condition, and one of the most challenging symptoms for many patients is not just the pain but the brain fog or cognitive decline. This cognitive impairment can often be more disturbing than the pain itself.

In an interview with HCPLive, Shai Efrati, MD, co-investigator and founder and director of the Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research at Shamir Medical Center, explained how his research aims to address the root cause of fibromyalgia: damaged brain tissue.

Results of Efrati’s study on hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) for fibromyalgia treatment show significant improvement in all parameters of the condition. Patients experienced relief from brain fog, pain, disabilities, and sleep disturbances. These improvements, he explained, are due to the repair of damaged brain tissue. Importantly, this repair is akin to healing a wound—once it's healed, it is a permanent fix, not requiring ongoing treatment. Many patients, particularly those with fibromyalgia induced by child abuse, also suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, which also showed significant improvement with HBOT.

Approaching fibromyalgia from this perspective means moving away from a subjective symptom checklist to a more objective diagnosis based on visible brain injuries. This shift allows clinicians to recommend treatments that not only alleviate symptoms but also address the primary injury. The ability to see the injury itself opens new avenues for providing relief and potentially curing many fibromyalgia patients.

Efrati believes it is crucial for patients with fibromyalgia to understand their symptoms are not in their imagination. In the past, fibromyalgia was often dismissed as a psychological issue, but it is now recognized as a biological condition with visible brain damage. This explains the wide range of symptoms beyond pain, including cognitive decline and sleep disorders.

He emphasized it is also important for patients to seek care from advanced physicians who can utilize these new imaging techniques to diagnose and treat the core injury in the brain. While traditional approaches often focus on symptom management, clinicians are now able to target the root cause of fibromyalgia.

Although not all providers are yet aware of these advances, the field is moving forward. Replicated studies and ongoing research continue to validate the findings of Efrati and his team, offering hope and improved outcomes for patients with fibromyalgia.

Disclosures: Efrati is head of Aviv’s Medical Advisory Board.