As futuristic and avant-garde as they may seem, hyperbaric chambers and related technology have been around since the 1800s.
Now in 2018, hyperbaric chambers have come to Fort Bend County for the first time outside of a hospital setting. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy America opened its doors in Missouri City in April and will hold a grand opening on July 14. It’s the second HBOT America location in the Houston area, with the first being located across the street from NRG Stadium.
“Essentially hyperbaric just means under pressure,” said Josh Ortega, chief operations officer for HBOT America. “Basically you’re getting inside of a hyperbaric chamber where it’s comprised of 90-95 percent pure oxygen and you’re under pressure. So that pressurization is like being in a submarine and going 15 feet or so below seawater depth, like a scuba diver. Now, when you’re under that amount of pressure, what it does, your body actually saturates the blood plasma with increased oxygen – 10 times more oxygen – so it allows your cells to absorb it faster, your tissues absorb it faster, and it helps accelerate the healing process. It helps act as an anti-inflammatory, so it will decrease inflammation naturally and it increases the blood flow.”
Ortega said they have three chambers at the Houston location and two in Missouri City.
“These things get filled up all day,” he said. “People use them for many different reasons – autoimmune disorders, cancer, stroke, a traumatic brain injury, a lot of people use it for anti-aging, for athletic recovery, for post-plastic surgery, post-operation.”
Ortega said the science behind hyperbaric chambers began in the 1800s with decompression chambers to help scuba divers suffering from the bends, or decompression sickness.
“Now research is showing that when you have a well-oxygenated cell, disease, bacteria, viruses can’t thrive in a well-oxygenated cell. So that’s what we’re trying to do is work from the inside out,” he said.
He noted that the therapy borders the holistic/medical line.
“Although mild hyperbaric therapy has been reported to be beneficial for a wide range of conditions, this therapy is not meant as a cure for any condition or disease, and no therapeutic outcomes can be guaranteed,” he said.
Hyperbaric chambers have mostly been within the domain of hospitals and other medical facilities where treatment can be very expensive. They burst into social consciousness in the 1980s when pop star Michael Jackson was photographed inside of one. Since then, their actual and rumored benefits have attracted many Hollywood stars and professional athletes.
“(Clients) say, ‘oh, I get it. This is what the athletes are doing or this is what Michael Jackson was doing.’ At one point it was Hollywood’s best-kept secret. The actors and actresses were using it for the anti-aging effect that it has,” Ortega said, noting that he does have some clients from the National Football League.
He said the process is easy and very relaxing.
“It takes about three minutes to pressurize the chamber and once you’re pressurized, we start the timer and run for an hour, hour and a half, whichever it is. Afterwards we decompress the chamber, and we do that very slowly as well,” he said.
Should the client become claustrophobic, they have the power to stop the session at any time.
“If someone comes in they’re in complete control,” he said.
He cautions clients to not come out of the chamber too quickly.
“If you come out too fast, typically what you might feel is just a little more discomfort in your inner ears, just like flying a plane when you take off and land, your ears feel like they pop a little bit,” he said. “Other than that you might get a little lightheaded or dizzy, so that’s why we do everything slow.”
HBOT America offers many more services than the hyperbaric chambers.
“We’re a natural, holistic recovery center, so what we do is focus on recovering and repairing the body,” he said. “One of the other services we offer is the Normatec, and these are the compression boots. They use compressed air with a pulsing technology that works with your body’s blood-pumping action. It’s really good for circulation, really good for athletes that are trying to recover fast after running or an athletic performance or if they’re trying to get back into training,” Ortega said. “It’s great for breaking down lactic acid build-up, which causes soreness. It tries to enhance the recovery time from 24 hours to like three hours, so you can train hard, recover fast, and train harder.”
HBOT America also has a Total Body Board.
“Any type of exercise that you can think of, whether it’s cardio, whether it’s strength training and machine work, or functioning for the core or stabilization, you can do on the body board,” Ortega said. “Any machine you can do in the gym you can do on this body board. So it’s really revolutionary.”
They also have a biodensity machine.
“This is a really new piece of equipment and we use it for bone density treatment,” he said. “What it does, it uses four isometric movements in a way that compounds the bones axially, in an axle format, basically from end to end, what it does is simulate your body’s natural bone generation process, so it makes your bones denser.”
Another tool in their kit is the infrared sauna. “It uses heat and light therapy that protrudes the skin at a much deeper level. It actually acts as a natural detoxing agent. It’s great for circulation, and weight loss, skin rejuvenation, circulation, and wound healing.”
One of the newer services they provide is IV therapy, which is available at both locations.
“It’s intravenous drips, vitamin drips,” Ortega said. “Eli (Rassi) and his team of registered nurses, they have 50 different compounds of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, or supplements that you can use with the drip. We have tons of patients that come from MD Anderson or the Med Center over here that do high vitamin C drip for cancer or immune system, auto immune disorders, and they see some really, really good, positive results. … He also does intramuscular shots once a month, so if you’re not getting enough vitamin D or have deficiencies in magnesium or anything like that, we also offer a once month shot as well.”
One of the more popular services isn’t provided by a machine, but rather a person – sports medicine doctor and athletic trainer Erin Hassler.
“She does massage cupping, she does dry needling, which is like the Western style acupuncture, she also offers a soft tissue massage, stretch therapy and biomechanics. She actually works with a lot of elite athletes; we actually have a couple NFL players that come in,” Ortega said.
For now, Ortega said HBOT America is on the cutting edge of the medical trend with hyperbaric chambers and their other treatments. “In the next five to 10 years these things will be everywhere. It will be like going to the tanning salon. They should be pretty prevalent,” he said.
Missouri City address: 4407 Sienna Parkway Suite 200
Houston address: 8180 Kirby Road