This case series pilot study assessed the effects of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBO2) for treating rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Ten RA subjects received 30 HBO2 treatments over 6 to 10 weeks. Serial rheumatologic evaluations (ie, the Disease Activity Scale [DAS28], the Routine Assessment of Patient Index Data 3, and the Pain and Sleep Quality Questionnaire) were completed at baseline, throughout the course of the study, and at the 6-month follow-up.
There was a statistically significant effect of HBO2 therapy over time on the DAS28–Global Health (p = 0.01), the DAS28–C-reactive protein (p = 0.002), and the DAS28–erythrocyte sedimentation rate (p = 0.008) measures; these analyses excluded 2 patients who were in clinical remission at baseline. Selected post hoc comparisons showed significantly lower DAS28–Global Health, DAS28–C-reactive protein, and DAS28–erythrocyte sedimentation rate scores at 3 and 6 months relative to baseline. In addition, statistically significant decreases in pain as measured by the Routine Assessment of Patient Index Data 3 and Pain and Sleep Quality Questionnaire were observed at the end of HBO2 relative to baseline.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is effective for joint pain in patients with RA based on data from multiple, validated clinical measures. Further research with more subjects and the use of a control group is necessary.