Chronic pain is one of the most common clinical presentations in the primary care settings. In the US, Fibromyalgia (FM) affects about 1–3% of adults and commonly occurs in adults between the ages of 40–50 years. FM causes widespread muscular pain and tenderness with hyperalgesia and allodynia and may be associated with other somatic complaints.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) has been utilized and has recently shown promising effects in the management of FM and other chronic pain disorders. In HBOT, the intermittent breathing of 100% oxygen in a pressurized chamber where the pressure is higher than 1 atmosphere absolute (ATA) has been utilized. HBOT exhibits a significant anti-inflammatory effect through reducing production of glial cells and inflammatory mediators which results in pain alleviation in different chronic pain conditions. HBOT can also influence neuroplasticity and affects the mitochondrial mechanisms resulting in functional brain changes. In addition to that, HBOT stimulates nitric oxide (NO) synthesis which helps in alleviating hyperalgesia and NO-dependent release of endogenous opioids which seemed to be the primary HBOT mechanism of antinociception.
Moreover, aerobic exercise and meditative movement therapies (MMT) have gained attention for their role in pain alleviation through different anti-inflammatory and antioxidant mechanisms.
In this review, we aim to elucidate the different mechanisms of HBOT and aerobic exercise in attenuating pain as adjuvant therapy in the multidisciplinary treatment strategy of chronic pain, and more particularly fibromyalgia.