Chiropractor  found ‘hyperbaric’ treatment helped reduce her pain

Mahnaz Ogabian in her Hyperbaric Wellness Center where she treats patients with various illnesses as well as athletes.
Photo by Calvin Nuttall

By Calvin Nuttall

Five years ago Mahnaz M. Ogabian suffered a sudden onset of a neurological disorder the chiropractor self-diagnosed as cervical dystonia. The debilitating condition causes severely painful muscle spasms and tremors in her neck and shoulders.

“It rapidly got worse,” she said. “I spent several months trying to hide it from my family, just keeping myself busy and not knowing how to tell them that there is something wrong with me that is not going away and is getting worse.”

Fast forward to about a year after onset, she found herself in a fetal position on the floor 24/7. She cried most of the time because the pain was so powerful. Ogabian had little success finding help with her condition through traditional channels. So she searched for a specialist who would be able to help.

“I went and saw five neurologists who had no idea what was going on with me,” she said. “They had never heard of (cervical dystonia). I would go to them without telling them I had self-diagnosed, because I didn’t want any predispositions.”

Eventually, Ogabian found a neurologist who recognized her condition. The traditional Western medical treatment involves regular, painful injections of botulinum toxin (botox) into her neck and back. It temporarily blocks the nerves that are over-firing to the spasming muscle groups. Large doses can be dangerous.

“Having injections as the only treatment that they would offer was not good enough for me,” she said. “Even at the maximum dosage it would give me about two or three weeks of 30 percent relief. Is that enough? It wasn’t for me. I was thankful for that relief, but I could not accept that as my only answer.”

Ogabian began to research alternative medical treatments and came across hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT). Hyperbaric medicine uses an ambient pressure greater than sea level atmospheric pressure.

Some therapists believe the treatment can aid involuntary muscle spasms conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease and essential tremors. So Ogabian thought it may help with her cervical dystonia.

The procedure involves placing the patient inside an airtight chamber. It’s pressurized with pure oxygen at 1.3 atmospheres. At such high concentrations, the patient’s lungs more quickly and easily absorb the oxygen, which can help the body heal and fight infections.

“I found that after each session, I would come out and feel so much lighter,” she said. “My symptoms were a whole lot less, and I had less pain.”

Having alleviated some of her symptoms through HBOT and other alternative medical treatments, Ogabian hopes to share her discoveries with other patients at her Hyperbaric Wellness Center. It celebrated its grand opening Saturday, Aug. 5, in a medical center on Hale Avenue.

“It has many benefits for different illnesses and conditions,” Ogabian said. “There are 14 on-label (FDA recognized) illnesses and conditions that it helps with, and there is a much longer list of off-label conditions that it can also treat.”

HBOT is used to treat decompression sickness, anemia, carbon monoxide poisoning, burns, wounds, and a range of other conditions. Ogabian believes HBOT can also be used to treat many more conditions than the FDA has specifically cleared it for. She even has patients who use it preventatively or for non-medical reasons.

“We have athletes who come here before their games. It helps them perform better,” she said. “We have patients who are marathon runners. I have one who recently used it to train for a triathlon in Seattle.”

For Ogabian, opening the wellness center has been more than a business decision. She’s on a personal mission to share the discoveries she has made on her own medical journey.

“I am fully functioning now, thankfully,” she said. “Do I still have some symptoms? Absolutely. I still get my injections, and I’m using all of these devices myself. My recovery wasn’t overnight, and I’m still recovering. But thank goodness, with everything that I have learned, I am able to pass it on and benefit others.”

Calvin Nuttall is a freelance reporter and Morgan Hill resident.