The Importance of Oxygen in Treating Fibromyalgia

While the cause of fibromyalgia is not agreed upon in the medical community,a strong belief that it derives from an oxygen metabolism dysfunction is mounting. The various proposed hypotheses about fibromyalgia’s origin are varied, ranging from an infectious viral agent to an auto-immune disorder. From an atomic perspective, the smallest building blocks of life, all of the proposed theories behind fibromyalgia can be understood. A system that isn’t metabolizing oxygen (the basis of life) properly, can manifest as fibromyalgia through each of the proposed causes.

Humans metabolize oxygen from air to create energy and fuel all body processes. According to some experts, impaired oxygen metabolism may be the molecular basis of fibromyalgia’s primary symptoms (muscular pain, fatigue and concentration difficulties). Specifically, oxygen if poorly metabolized, causes fatigue and pain in muscles, memory disruption in the brain and impaired function of all of our body’s cells.

One aspect of this metabolic dysfunction occurs from oxidation’s creation of unstable molecules, also called free radicals. Oxidation is the loss of electrons occurring when oxygen breaks down a substance excessively. A natural process, oxidation is witnessed in our environment when iron rusts and fruit turns brown. In the human body, the damage incurred from free radicals contributes to aging and the development and perpetuation of chronic disease. Thus, preventing oxidative stress can significantly reduce fibromyalgia’s symptoms.

As published in Rheumatology International, researchers from Turkey studied 85 women with fibromyalgia and compared them to 80 healthy women, matched for age, weight and height. Each woman’s cellular damage by free radicals was evaluated. The results demonstrated that the women with fibromyalgia had significantly higher levels of cellular oxidation, compared to the controls.

Antioxidants may help prevent cellular oxidation by scavenging (destroying) the unstable molecules before they wreck havoc. Protecting the integrity of muscle and brain cells can end the fibromyalgia cycle of pain, fatigue and impaired concentration. Doctors who truely understand fibromyalgia are recognizing this connection.

Another aspect of oxygen metabolism dysfunction is a lack of available oxygen. Steps can be taken to increase oxygen’s availability for proper body functioning, although the reason behind its deficiency is not entirely understood. However, we do know that fibromyalgia patients can exhibit a spectrum of breathing difficulties. Whether insufficiently drawing in breath, experiencing “oxygen hunger,” or losing the ability to properly process oxygen, many individuals with fibromyalgia can’t seem to get enough oxygen. Often physicians will recommend avoidance of high-altitude locations to patients with fibromyalgia, due to the decreased availability of oxygen in these locations.

Decreased or inhibited ability to process oxygen means less oxygen can be delivered to the muscles, causing muscular fatigue and subsequent pain and stiffness. Occurring both in the skin above tender points and in the extremities, sensations of cold go hand-in-hand with a fibromyalgia diagnosis. It is no surprise that people with fibromyalgia typically have a general intolerance to cold temperatures. A decrease in local surface temperature can be the direct result of an absence of oxygen in the body’s blood supply.

Recent studies have confirmed that oxygen treatment might benefit individuals with fibromyalgia. The connection between oxygen metabolic dysfunction and fibromyalgia is the fact that as we age, our ability to process and utilize oxygen decreases 1% per year for every year that we are past the age of 25. The most successful treatment of fibromyalgia demands that the doctor ultilize appropriate oxygen therapy with his/her patients. This requires that the doctor have an excellent working knowledge of the metabolic side of treating this condition.

While fibromyalgia remains a complex condition, seeing the problem on the most essential of levels can shed light onto successful treatment. Most of us take for granted the way in which our body metabolizes oxygen. However, evidence and logic suggest this very process we take for granted may be at fault in fibromyalgia syndrome. The good news is that something can be done about it, without medications or surgery. Increasing the bodies ability to utilize oxygen to all parts of the body, especially the brain and spine, can prove extremely beneficial to the person suffering from fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia sufferers should make it a point to seek out a doctor who understands the role of utilizing oxygen in the treatment of their fibromyalgia.


Ali, M, Ali O., Fibromyalgia: An oxidative-dysoxygenative disorder (ODD), J Integrative Medicine, 1999; 3:17-37.

Bagis S, Tamer L, Sahin G, Bilgin R, Guler H, Ercan B, Erdogan C., Free radicals and antioxidants in primary fibromyalgia: an oxidative stress disorder?, Rheumatol Int, Dec 20, 2003.

Gusi N, Tomas-Carus P, Hakkinen A, Hakkinen K, Ortega-Alonso A., Warm Water Exercise Decreases Pain, Strengthens FM Patients in Study, Arthritis Rheum. 2006 Feb;55(1):66-73.

Lund, N., Bengtsson A, Thorborg P., Muscle tissue oxygen pressure in primary fibromyalgia, Scand J Rheumatol. 1986; 15(2): 165-73.

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