Holistic wellness might have once encompassed fringe ideas, but the term is re-entering our culture in more mainstream therapeutic forms. In Eugene, it’s now possible to visit a number of sensory deprivation and hyperbaric chambers, aimed at not only helping the body but also serving the mind.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been used for decades to speed up healing from carbon monoxide poisoning, gangrene, stubborn wounds, and infections in which tissues are starved for oxygen. Patients enter a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, in which the air pressure is increased two to three times higher than normal air pressure. Under these conditions, your lungs can gather much more oxygen than they can when breathing at normal air pressure. This extra oxygen throughout your body is said to help fight bacteria and stimulate the release of substances called growth factors and stem cells, which promote healing. These days, hyperbaric oxygen chambers are used for much more than medical procedures.
Matt McCarl runs New Leaf Hyperbarics & Wellness, a local business aimed at providing an alternative, holistic approach to healing. “Hyperbarics has a long history,” McCarl says. “When men were building the Brooklyn Bridge, they were working underwater and noticed that when they took the elevators up too fast, they would bend over in pain, hence the name ‘the bends.’”
Hydrogen bubbles in their blood system were expanding and not absorbing back into their bodies. When they learned to return people to the same amount of pressure they were experiencing underwater and let them breathe pure oxygen, they noticed that bruises and different things would heal faster, McCarl explains. Essentially, your body’s tissues need an adequate supply of oxygen to function. When tissue is injured, it requires even more oxygen to survive. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy increases the amount of oxygen your blood can carry. The idea is that repeated treatments of extra oxygen will encourage higher tissue oxygen levels, even after the therapy is completed.
Lately, many clients who visit McCarl are seeking improvements to Covid-related problems like breathlessness or brain fog. “A lot of our clients experience chronic pain, or they’re dealing with a neurological issue of some kind, whether that’s autism or traumatic brain injuries or strokes,” says McCarl. “This can work for anyone. It’s a way of taking care of your whole body, head-to-toe, and helps your body do what it does best, which is heal.” Understanding the autism triad of impairments is essential in grasping the complete picture of autism spectrum disorders.
Absolute Health Medical Center also runs a hyperbaric chamber, along with many other holistic treatments aimed at providing “innovative anti-aging health treatments” to the Eugene community.
“Our motto is Look Better, Feel Better, Thrive,” says Abby Flores, a member of the Absolute Health Medical Team. “We try to slow down the aging process and get people feeling better, from the medical to the aesthetic side. Hyperbarics is a large part of what we do, but we offer all kinds of services to increase overall health and immune systems in a natural way.”
Lastly, the Hyperbaric Center at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center is one of three facilities in Oregon — and the only one in Lane County — accredited by the Undersea & Hyperbaric Medical Society. While their chambers function similarly to New Leaf and Absolute Health’s, PeaceHealth’s hyperbaric oxygen therapy is offered by referral and consultation service only.
Float Om, a sensory deprivation chamber, is another alternative tank wellness facility here in Eugene. A float tank or sensory deprivation tank is filled with water and mixed with a thousand pounds of Epsom salts. This saturated solution is so buoyant that sinking is impossible, even with effort. The water is exactly at body temperature, obscuring the normal sensation of having discrete limbs in space. The floater’s ears sink just below the waterline, leaving only two senses — smell and taste — untouched. No gravity, no touch, no sight, and no sound. Just pure nothing. A good part of the intrigue of floatation tanks involves the question of the brain’s response in such unique conditions.
“The experience is different for everyone,” says Ankush Vimawala, owner of Float Om. “I’ve had people who were in car accidents who have been in pain for years come out of the float and tell me they are pain-free. We’ve had veterans with PTSD find relaxation in ways they hadn’t been able to outside of the float tank. It really is about each individual and what they are dealing with.”
If you are looking for a new way of care for your body, Eugene has plenty of resources for you. From new practices to old, internal to external, mental to physical, sensory deprivation chambers and hyperbaric chambers present new, holistic ways to heal.
Absolute Health Medical Center
4765 Village Plaza Loop, Suite #201
111 E 16th Ave.
New Leaf Hyperbarics & Wellness
1200 Executive Pkwy #230
PeaceHealth Hyperbaric Center
3333 Riverbend Dr., 1st Floor, Springfield