Now, for the first time, researchers in Atlanta have tested the effects of low-oxygen therapy on people.
Over a five-day period, 19 patients with partial spinal cord injuries were given intermittent bursts of low oxygen, known as hypoxia. The patients breathed through a mask for about 40 minutes a day, receiving 90-second periods of low oxygen levels, followed by 60 seconds of normal oxygen levels.
The simple treatment alone helped patients walk faster, researchers found.
And patients showed “significant” improvement in their speed and endurance when the therapy was combined with rehabilitation exercises.
“What this tells us is that intermittent hypoxia may be a powerful way to dramatically enhance the benefits of current therapies that are already being used in spinal cord injury rehabilitation,” said study author Randy Trumbower, a researcher at Emory University’s School of Medicine, based in Atlanta.