By Tammy Chipko
You have probably seen the ads for Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy recently and may have wondered, “What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?”
Whether you own, ride or treat equine athletes, the use of increased atmospheric pressure for medical therapy is intriguing. To better understand the therapy and its value within the equine world, I have asked Geoff Pfeifer, who specializes in this type of therapy, to explain the uses and advantages of the treatment.
TC: What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)?
GP: Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is a treatment performed with high-pressure oxygen, which aids in the process of healing diseased or damaged tissues. It is based on the premise that healing is accelerated when more oxygen is made available to body tissues than the amount they are able to absorb under normal atmospheric conditions.
TC: Why is oxygen so important in the aid of repair and recovery?
GP: Under normal circumstances, oxygen is transported through the entire body by the red blood cells, which carry 98% of their capacity in oxygen. With hyperbaric oxygen therapy, oxygen is dissolved into all the body’s fluids and tissues, and can also be carried to areas where the circulation is compromised or even blocked. Oxygen is important for the health of all cells in the body. The level of oxygen in the blood stream can be increased up to 15 times higher than normal which has dramatic effects on the cells and speeds up the body’s natural healing process.
TC: What type of results have you seen with HBOT in humans?
GP: (HBOT) has been used on people for many years with outstanding results. It can be used to reduce swelling, pain and can prevent Hypoxia of the traumatized tissues. There has been tremendous success with HBOT in treating sports related injuries. An example is Terrell Owens, a wide receiver who underwent HBOT after breaking his leg six weeks before the playoffs. The treatments sped up his recovery time significantly allowing him back to play a remarkable game. I trained with the doctors who utilized several innovative therapies to rehabilitate him in record time.
TC: HBOT is helping top athletes worldwide, so it makes sense that it would help our equine athletes, right?
GP: Absolutely! We have been using this treatment with horses for quite some time. We apply HBOT not only for bone, tendon, and ligament injuries but also for shipping and exercise recovery, tying up, burns and other trauma. We have found that HBOT radically increases blood flow to the area of injury. Stem cells are always in the blood circulation so when you increase circulation you increase the ability of stem cells to implant in the injured area and naturally repair the damage. HBOT can be used alone or as an adjunct or complement to other therapy’s such as shockwave treatment, stem cell surgery, acupuncture, and antibiotics.
TC: How did this specialized treatment center get started in California?
GP: Kellie Jean Cerin founded The Equine and Animal HBOT Center of Southern California in 2005. Kellie’s family had a medical background, and her husband Vladimir was a successful trainer of both Olympic athletes and racehorses. We first installed the best equipment available and then made sure that our technical staff of experienced horsemen and women were all extensively trained and certified. You can trust, therefore, that your horse will be cared for in an optimum way.
TC: How did you get involved with HBOT?
GP: When I worked as a Neuro-psychologist I recommended HBOT for the various types of brain injury, stroke and autistic patients that I worked to rehabilitate during those years. For people with brain damage HBOT was one of the few therapies that I saw produce beneficial results. Starting 30 years ago I began my training in a Chinese style of physical therapy, then later in Naturopathy and European Biological Medicine. I started treating a few race horse trainers about 10 years ago and anytime I’d pull a new machine or technique out of my “toolbox” I’d hear “We’ve got to try this on the horses!” Then 5 years ago they got me down to the track and I fell in love with the horses. I’ve done a series of equine retrainings for the past 5 years and bring several innovative rehabilitation methods to the horse world that are typically reserved for elite human athletes.
TC: It must be very rewarding for you when you see the results.
GP: Yes, it is definitely rewarding and that is why I’m extremely positive about HBOT. We have had so many people bring horses to us because the diagnosis was grim at best. When for various reasons all other treatments have failed, HBOT has been effective. Some years ago friends of Kellie’s (the owner) had a yearling with such a bad leg injury that the vet said to put him down. Kellie treated the yearling for free and, due to a course of HBOT and antibiotics, the young horse recovered fully. I will never forget watching this yearling out in the paddock jumping puddles after a rain when, shortly before the treatment, he could barely walk.
TC: Where can we get more information about this therapy?
GP: The Center has a booth at the Oaks Blenheim Summer Series where everyone can come and ask questions and perhaps try a little fun oxygen treatment. The hope is to help you and/or your equine athlete.
The Equine & Animal Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Center is located in the city of Bradbury, about 7 miles from the Santa Anita Racetrack. Click here for their website and to watch a video on HBOT.
Geoff Pfeifer, Manager: