Decompression Sickness Treatment: All You Need to Know

Decompression sickness is something that every diver is aware of and hopes to avoid. Thankfully, there are things you can do to reduce your susceptibility, and decompression sickness treatments have come a long way since scuba diving began.

While decompression sickness might seem intimidating, this condition can be treated successfully with hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT). So in this article, we will look at what decompression sickness is and how hyperbaric chambers and HBOT provide treatment. It turns out that hyperbaric chambers also have some other fascinating benefits. Read on to find out more.

Understanding Decompression Sickness

Decompression sickness, also called DCS, occurs when rapid changes in air or water pressure result in nitrogen bubbles forming in bodily tissues. It is typically associated with divers and mountaineers.

Symptoms of this condition include dizziness, headaches, fatigue, joint pain, and general weakness in the arms or legs. Additionally, you can experience prolonged symptoms if you do not seek decompression sickness treatment quickly.

RELATED: The 6 Best Ways to Prevent Decompression Sickness

You can help prevent DCS by ascending slowly from your dive, not drinking any alcohol before a dive, and staying hydrated throughout your diving day. Check out the article above for more ways to prevent decompression sickness.

Hyperbaric Chambers in Decompression Sickness Treatment

Hyperbaric chambers offer effective decompression sickness treatment by introducing pure oxygen into the user’s system at a higher air pressure. This eliminates the nitrogen bubbles that form in divers and mountaineers. Hyperbaric chambers also help recovery by accessing harder-to-reach tissues. 

Benefits of Hyperbaric Chambers for Divers

Hyperbaric chambers are used by divers for decompression sickness treatment, but they have some other fascinating benefits. 

1. Enhances Physical Performance

Diving looks easy but we all know it is physically demanding and requires us to be healthy and fit. Interestingly, because hyperbaric chambers provide extra oxygen to the whole body, HBOT stimulates the diver’s tissues and can increase physical performance.

2. Keeps Your Mind Sharp

Aside from being an effective decompression sickness treatment, hyperbaric chambers can also help keep your mind sharp. They do this by supplying the brain with extra oxygen and stimulating harder-to-reach tissues in the body. 

READ MORE: Mastering Extended Range Diver Emergencies: How to Stay Calm and What to do

3. Reduces Swelling and Muscle Pain

It is easy to become overexerted underwater and have sore muscles after diving, especially during more difficult dives with strong currents and swell. Hyperbaric chambers reduce swelling and muscle pain after diving by stimulating tissues - essentially guiding the body to repair itself. 

4. Fights Bacteria

Another unusual effect of decompression sickness treatment is that it can help divers to fend off bacteria. As divers, we have an increased risk of exposure to bacteria found in water. Hyperbaric chambers do an excellent job of fighting off various forms of bacteria. Since these machines provide higher oxygen concentrations, bacteria that have trouble living in high-oxygen environments are eliminated. 

RELATED: Dive Safety – 15 Essential Tips For New Divers

5. Effective Against Decompression Sickness

Most importantly, hyperbaric chambers are the best decompression sickness treatment. The higher oxygen concentration delivered at a considerable pressure immediately goes after the nitrogen bubbles. Additionally, the ability of these chambers to stimulate tissues aids in recovery, making the whole process smoother and much quicker. 

The Future of Hyperbaric Chambers

Design has come a long way since the early days of diving! There are a range of hyperbaric chambers available today, such as soft shell hyperbaric chambers and hard shell hyperbaric chambers.

These modern hyperbaric chambers offer diverse features, including memory foam mattresses, lying and sitting models, and portable chambers. All of which help to make decompression sickness treatment more comfortable and accessible to all divers.

Hyperbaric chambers are essential for divers but remember they should only ever be operated by trained and specialized personnel. 

Do you want to learn more about dive safety? Then become an SSI Stress & Rescue Diver.

You will learn how to identify stress, prevent accidents, and keep yourself and other divers safe.