What is oxygen therapy?
Our hyperbaric oxygen chamber
Oxygen therapy can be referred to as either Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) or High Dose Oxygen Therapy (HDOT). This means that during your therapy session, you will be breathing in a higher concentration of oxygen whilst under increased atmospheric pressure (hyperbaric). Since August 2022, we have been generating our own oxygen, which guarantees supply and quality.
What conditions can benefit?
The majority of our members and Centre users live with chronic neurological conditions, predominantly Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Other conditions include; Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), Motor Neurone Disease (MND), Parkinson's, Stroke and Fibromyalgia. More recently people affected by Long Covid have found oxygen therapy to be beneficial.
Max Lahiff and Joe Joyce, Bristol Bears
Oxygen therapy for sports injuries
We frequently assist those with a variety of sports injuries. In the past, we have treated players from both amateur and professional football and rugby clubs as well as professional cricketers and ice hockey players. Due to an increased level of fitness in sportspeople, the number of sessions they require in the chamber is reduced. Oxygen therapy is particularly beneficial for speeding up the repair of strains, breaks and soft tissue damage.
Click here to complete a form specifically to book sessions for sports-related injuries.
Non neurological conditions
We also offer non-subsidised sessions for those wanting to benefit from our therapies who may not have a chronic condition. This can include acute illness or injury, including sports and trauma. These users will still have use of our facilities in the same way but pay through Bristol Therapy Centre Ltd. Click here for an application form for non neurological service users.
How does oxygen therapy work?
The air we normally breathe contains 21% oxygen, and 78% nitrogen, with the remaining 1% being contributed by noble gases and carbon dioxide. The concentration of these gases is determined by the atmospheric pressure which is influenced by the weather and is reduced at altitude. Atmospheric pressure is accorded the unit 1 to represent atmospheric pressure absolute, or 1 ATA.
During therapy you will be breathing 95% oxygen at up to 2 ATA, therefore increasing the uptake of oxygen in your blood. Oxygen is transported and dissolved in the blood and in combination with haemoglobin in the red blood cells. Although haemoglobin carries most of the oxygen, it is only dissolved oxygen that passes into the tissues. Breathing high levels of oxygen under hyperbaric conditions dissolves more oxygen in all of the body's fluids therefore more can reach areas where the circulation is diminished, or blocked, and so improve recovery. The effects of extra oxygen varies depending on the condition you are seeking help for.
What are the reported benefits?
The body’s tissues need oxygen to function and adding more oxygen can help damaged tissue to heal. At pressure, it can enhance tissue function and help to fight infections. More oxygen improves your white blood cell function, encourages the growth of new blood vessels, and reduces inflammation and swelling.
Although the damage caused by neurological and other conditions cannot be prevented or cured by oxygen therapy, many people throughout the world find that it reduces the severity of their symptoms.
Your oxygen therapy session explained
Everyone who comes to the Centre, with a neurological condition, has an initial assessment where details of their condition, symptoms and mobility will be recorded. This is the general assessment, and it helps us, and you, monitor your progress as it provides a baseline to track back to. Your initial assessment will be carried out by a member of our physiotherapy team. During this assessment, the various therapies we offer will be discussed. For people with sporting injuries, or non-neurological conditions, the assessment will be carried out by a member of the oxygen therapy team.
The first step in beginning oxygen therapy is to have a chat with one of our team, this can be by phone or in person, they will guide you through the process and, once your forms are complete, book you in for your first sessions.
Your first therapy session takes place outside the chamber and this is to help you get used to wearing an oxygen mask. After this your therapy will take place inside the oxygen chamber which will be pressurised.
Once in the chamber, you attach the oxygen supply and exhaust pipes to your mask - this will have been demonstrated to you by one of our volunteers. The entire time you are sat in the chamber you will be on a completely separate air supply from everyone else.
Comfortable seating for oxygen outside the chamber
Your therapy session is carried out in three stages
After the chamber door is closed there will be some noise as air is added and the pressure inside is increased.
The chamber will begin to feel warmer and most people experience a fullness in their ears; similar to when an aeroplane descends. You may need to equalise your ears to avoid any discomfort. It can take between 10 and 20 minutes for the chamber to reach the correct pressure.
Through the whole process, all you need to do is breathe normally. If at any time you feel uncomfortable you can communicate with the operators through the two-way intercom.
Occasionally the chamber may have to be 'flushed' while this is quite noisy it is nothing to be worried about, it is only to make sure the air inside the chamber remains at an appropriate level, as well as to add some cooling air as it can get warm, especially in the summer.
Five minutes before the end of the session, the operator will let you know that they will be performing a flush of the Chamber, this lets the existing air out and new air into the Chamber. They will then let you know when the session is ending. It will be noisy, and a little cooler, you might have to equalise your ears again. This should take between 10 and 20 minutes. Once complete the operator will open the chamber door and will ask you to disconnect your pipes and leave the chamber one at a time.
How to get the most out of your oxygen therapy
A standard oxygen mask
All oxygen therapy sessions are overseen by a minimum of two trained volunteer operators. Every year these operators are re-qualified using nationally set operating procedures.
When you begin therapy you will be shown how to fit your mask, what to do if you are feeling uncomfortable and you will be taken through all the relevant procedures and, please, ask as many questions as you like.
For your first session inside the chamber you will not be left alone in all likelihood you will be sitting with another one of our members who has already had multiple sessions. The Centre is a friendly place and everyone here will do all they can to help you feel at ease throughout your session.
Before starting oxygen therapy, you should expect to commit to an initial course of 15 to 20 sessions (block sessions). You will usually have one session per day, for three to five days over a period of around four to six weeks. After your block sessions are completed you will then, usually, have one session a week.
The standard starting protocol for neurological conditions is;
You will have five P2 sessions and then have an assessment with the coordinator, if you do not show any improvement of 1-2 or more symptoms then you move to the next pressure P3, again you have 5 sessions then another assessment, if you have improvement of 1-2 or more symptoms you stay at that pressure until you have completed 15/20 sessions, this is how we find out what pressure suits you best.
Inside the Chamber
Seating inside the oxygen chamber
Members about to begin an oxygen session
Please note the timetable can occasionally change due to demand, check with the oxygen team to confirm the correct timings and pressure.
Further Information about your therapy
In instances where it isn’t feasible to attend every day, we will work with you to organise sessions as close together as possible to maximise the potential effectiveness of the therapy.
When in the chamber we recommend that you wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes. Some people find it beneficial to wear layers as the chamber can become quite warm during a session and can then become quite chilly during decompression. You can take a mask break while in the chamber as long as it is only one member at a time
When the pressure increases in the chamber you may need to equalise your ears, just as you would on an aeroplane. There are a number of ways to do this:
• Swallow; this is usually the most effective method
• Pinch your nose and with your mouth shut blow out
• Move your jaw from side to side
• Try to force a yawn
• Take sips of water; you will need to bring a plastic bottle of still water with you
If you can’t clear your ears at first, don't worry, just let the operator know straight away and they will stop the pressurisation, they'll then let out some of the pressure until you let them know, with a thumbs up, that everything is okay, the operator will then resume pressurisation at a slower rate.
The operator, and the other occupants of the chamber, will always be on hand to help you.
As you will be wearing your mask for the entirety of the session it will be difficult to talk and the noise will make it tricky to hear. Most people listen to something through their headphones or read a book to keep themselves entertained. You can bring your mobile phone, tablet or laptop into the chamber; but we recommend you download any programmes you’d like to watch beforehand. There is free Wi-Fi in the Centre, so you could do a spot of online shopping to pass the time.
There are a number of items that are prohibited to have in the Chamber please click here for full details.
Meet the Team
Chair of Trustees
Geoff Mayell was elected chair of The West of England MS Therapy Centre in 2023
Chief Executive Officer:
The Centre’s Oxygen Coordinator and Senior Operator
Angela Ball and Keith Taylor
The Centre’s Hyperbaric Oxygen Advisor
Petra Kliempt BSc (hons), MPH, PhD, Honorary NHS Specialist Trainer in Hyperbaric Medicine
What to do next
We very much hope that you would like to find out more.
More information about costs and ways to pay can be found on our Therapies page
Please download our Members' Pack for those living with neurological conditions.
Our Oxygen Manager, Angela Ball, will be delighted to help you with any questions, please call her on 01454 201686
We look forward to welcoming you to The Brightwell.