Ask Kathy M. Archives
A Collection of Questions and Answers from TBI Advice Expert - Kathy Moeller

Topic: Therapy - Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy


Dear Kathy M.,

I am 35 years old and suffered a TBI at the age of 33. I find that I am not full of options. I've come across some alternative medicines (and medical treatments), have applied disability, but I still have no income. I am wondering if if Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy works and also if it is covered by the health benefits.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is the only thing I'm aware of that offers the possibility of improving my life! Are you aware of government assistance for such treatment? Thanks for your time.


Kathy's Response:

Dear Walter,

I'm glad you are reaching out for answers. Unfortunately, I cannot address the pros and cons of Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment (I am not a doctor or medical professional), nor do I know how such treatments are funded. But I can address the issue of improving one's life after experiencing brain injury!

There are many ways we can improve our lives, and based on my experience working with others with brain injury, improvement is seldom linked to a single therapy or strategy.

Have you started networking with your peers -- either in local support groups or on the internet? This would be a good way to start finding out what has worke for others (including whether or not Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatments have worked for them -- also how such treatments were funded). See the Brain Injury Association's web site to find out what is available in your state. The URL is

Another good way to network with your peers is to join an internet support group (they are in the form of e-mail lists discussion groups or chat rooms). I facilitate several e-mail support and discussion lists (for familes as well as persons with brain injury). You can find them, and others, at this site. See:

Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment is a physical physical treatment that is intended to help the brain improve organic function. I have heard (informally and basically "through the grapevine") that it helps some and does not help others. May I assume you have already talked about this treatment to your primary care physician and/or your physiatrist (physical rehabilitation physician), if you have one? If not, that is where I would start in terms of finding out if this treatment might be appropriate for you.

After doing this, one way to evaluate it's effectiveness is to network with families who have direct experience with this treatment option. They can give you their feedback about it's effectiveness, as well as names of doctorss they have used. They will also be able to tell you how the treatments were funded. If I were interested in finding out more about this treatment (or any other treatment, for that matter), after talking to my doctor, I would start networking with people who have had experience with it.

Also, if you have difficulty keeping track of the information you learn, please do not be shy about asking for help -- either by using a family member or someone else to help you keep track of information or make decisions about the options.

Learn about the "Healing Model and the "Compensation Model"

In my experience, recovery from brain injury seems to be approached in two different ways. One is based on what some call the "healing model" and the other is based on what is sometimes called the "compensation model." Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatments would fall into the first category.

We all know that after a brain injury, the brain goes through a natural healing process. Some physicians (and other profressionals) focus on this aspect of recovery by providing therapy that is designed to enhance, improve or support the natural healing process. Others focus on teaching persons with brain injury how to compensate for their losses, both cognitive and physical.

I have more experience with the latter than the former. After my brain injury in 1990, I received extensive rehabilitation (residential and outpatient) at a state-of-the-art facility that focused primarily on teaching persons with brain injury compensatory strategies. With ten years of post-injury life experience under my belt, I have to say that I am glad this was my focus. Over the years, I have networked with several hundred people with brain injury, and can honestly say that those who have focused on learning compensation skills report a high qualify of life.

This is not meant to discourage you (or anyone else) from pursuing treatments that focus on healing the brain. It does mean that many of us have learned to compensate for what we have lost in terms of organic function and have a very high quality of life because we have learned to recover in other ways -- in terms of restoring functional living skills in day-to-day life.

Hope this helps,
Kathy M.

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