The Importance of Oxygen in Healing and Pain
Oxygen is the most essential molecule needed for life. We can live for weeks without food, days without water, but only moments without oxygen. Our body’s tissues need a constant supply of oxygen to function and the best way to optimize health is to adequately oxygenate the body’s tissues. Some of the benefits of improved oxygenation include, but are not limited to; inflammation modulation, immune modulation, and cellular metabolism-enhancing properties.
Oxygen plays a key role in tissue healing and pain reduction by increasing the energy supply to an extremely hypermetabolic demanding process of cellular repair. Healing injuries in all tissues such as nerves, brain, ligaments, tendons, skin and mucosa require increased energy to repair. Cells utilize oxygen in the production of ATP, which is required for fuel during active cellular processes such as during wound healing. Sufficient oxygen supply leads to increased ATP being generated, leading to improved tissue repair. Specifically, the following are a few of the ways that oxygen and ATP improve healing:
• ATP is utilized after an injury to trigger cell responses including increased growth factors and immune cell recruitment leading to improved cellular function resulting in tissue healing and repair.
• Collagen is the main protein found in skin and other connective tissues. Collagen repair and growth are oxygen dependent. Adequate wound tissue oxygenation is crucial to support collagen synthesis and maturation. Indeed, increasing wound oxygenation results in increased collagen deposition and tensile strength (1)
• ATP also signals the purinergic system, which participates in the proliferation and differentiation of both mesenchymal stem cells and neural stem cells. contributing to promotion of cell growth, regulating inflammation, and signaling tissue repair. (3)
Since oxygenation of your tissues is so essential, it is very important to understand how you can optimize oxygen levels. The following are ways, while seeming simple can improve oxygen levels to your blood and tissues:
We often take 12 to 20 breaths a minute and these are often shallow, fast breaths that do not provide our tissues with adequate oxygen. Slow down and take a few moments to breathe in slowly feeling your lungs expand in all directions. Breathing exercises such as box breathing or 4-7-8 breathing can be beneficial for improving oxygenation to tissues and calming the nervous system. Suggested apps to improve deep slow breathing include MyCalmBeat, Breathing Zone, Breathe+, and Paced Breathing.
• Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy:
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is breathing 100% oxygen while under increased atmospheric pressure. Treatments are usually 30-60 minutes in a pressurized chamber. Treatments are comfortable, well tolerated and safe. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves increases the amount of oxygen in the blood. Increased blood saturation of oxygen will increase the concentration of oxygen to the body’s tissues.
Ozone has been shown to have immunomodulating, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-microbial effects. One way ozone improves oxygen is by increasing 2,3-DPG levels which leads to an increase of oxygen released to the tissues and activates the Krebs cycle stimulating production of ATP (2)
1. Sen, C. K. (2009). Wound healing essentials: Let there be oxygen. Wound Repair and Regeneration,17(1), 1-18. doi:10.1111/j.1524-475x.2008.00436.x
2. Agosti, I. D., Ginelli, E., Mazzacane, B., Peroni, G., Bianco, S., Guerriero, F., . . . Rondanelli, M. (2016). Effectiveness of a Short-Term Treatment of Oxygen-Ozone Therapy into Healing in a Posttraumatic Wound. Case Reports in Medicine,2016, 1-5. doi:10.1155/2016/9528572
3. Cavaliere, F., Donno, C., & Dâ€™Ambrosi, N. (2015). Purinergic signaling: A common pathway for neural and mesenchymal stem cell maintenance and differentiation. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience,9. doi:10.3389/fncel.2015.00211