Veteran credits oxygen therapy with PTSD relief

By VERONICA WERNICKE, Daily Sun Senior Writer Mar 7, 2023 Updated Mar 8, 2023

Original Article :: Here ::

Crystal Martin, a member of the Tri-County Women Veterans, recently completed hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatment for PTSD at Aviv Clinic at the Center for Advanced Healthcare at Brownwood.
Bill Mitchell, Daily Sun

It started with an anxious feeling. Then came the nightmares. When Crystal Martin left the military in 2007 after serving 20 years as a nurse in the U.S. Air Force, she was eager to put her skills to use as part of the civilian workforce. 

Then the world of urgent care took her back to her time at war. The sounds of people crying out in pain and certain smells at the hospital triggered her post-traumatic stress disorder in 2020. 

It wasn’t until she took part in a study on using hyperbaric oxygen therapy to treat PTSD at Aviv Clinics at The Villages that she finally felt relief. 


“I was involved in the opportunity of a lifetime,” said Martin, of the Village of St. Johns. “I did 68 (treatments), and it changed my life. Mentally and physically, I have my quality of life back. It did something to heal me.”

Aviv Clinics and researchers from Tel Aviv University and Israel’s Shamir Medical Center are studying the effects of hyperbaric oxygen therapy, or HBOT, on veterans dealing with PTSD. 

HBOT, offered at Aviv Clinics at The Villages, enhances the body’s natural process of rejuvenation through increased oxygen concentration, said Dr. Mohammed Elamir, lead physician for Aviv Clinics at The Villages. 

Normally, the air people breathe is 21% oxygen. During the treatment, patients inhale 100% oxygen in a pressurized atmosphere. The pressure is similar to diving more than 30 feet down in the ocean, Elamir said.  

Martin and five other veterans are participating in the 12-week study at Aviv Clinics. Each of the veterans have PTSD and have tried other therapies and treatments in the past. 

PTSD is caused by a biological wound in brain tissues, said Dr. Shai Efrati, director of the Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research at Shamir Medical Center in Israel and founder of Aviv Clinics at The Villages. 

Symptoms such as avoidance, impaired cognition, mood changes and depression improved after veterans underwent HBOT treatment, Elamir said. 

Prior to working with Aviv Clinics, Martin sought professional help but said was told she was dealing with anxiety or menopause and should take a pill for it. 

But Martin knew certain situations at the hospital were triggering her nightmares. 

“It put me back in the situation of people crying out in pain,” Martin said. “I had to do some missions that were very difficult for me morally (in the Air Force). Because of what I had to do and witness, I didn’t realize until 13 years later that it traumatized me.” 

Physicians at Aviv Clinics were the first to refer to PTSD as a wound in the brain and help her understand why she was dealing with it, she said. 

“There are changes in the brain in terms of structure and function as a result of trauma, and that trauma is a wound within the brain you need to heal,” Elamir said. “Unfortunately before this my only tools were medications that would deal with the symptoms. But we were never actually addressing the cause and healing the cause of their problems. Once we understood that, we knew the (HBOT) protocol can help the brain (after) a stroke and other things we treat, so let’s apply that principle.” 

The therapy involved veterans sitting in the chamber two hours a day, five days a week for 12 weeks. During the two hours, they breathed in 100% oxygen through a mask for 20 minutes, then took off the mask for five minutes to take in regular oxygen, Elamir said. 

“With the new hyperbaric oxygen therapy protocols, we can activate mechanisms that repair the wounded brain tissue,” Efrati said in a statement. “The treatment induces reactivation and proliferation of stem cells, as well as generation of new blood vessels and increased brain activity, ultimately restoring the functionality of the wounded tissues. Our study paves the way to a better understanding of the connection between mind and body.” 

About halfway through her 12-week treatment, Martin and her husband both noticed that her symptoms started to ease. 

“My husband (spoke with Dr. Elamir) and said, ‘She’s just a different person,’” Martin said. 

The therapy, which has been around for hundreds of years, most notably in Israel, also has been used to treat long COVID-19, age-related decline, concussions and traumatic brain injury, stroke, Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, scuba and deep-sea divers affected by rapid pressure change, carbon monoxide poisoning, diabetic foot ulcers and more, according to Aviv Clinics and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 

Currently, hyperbaric oxygen therapy is available only at Aviv Clinics at The Villages and in Israel. 

But there are plans to expand in the future.  

“PTSD is huge,” Elamir said. “As long as there is trauma, there’s going to be PTSD, and we really focus on veterans, but it’s not just veterans. If you’ve had childhood trauma, sexual trauma, emotional trauma — whatever it is, those are wounds in the brain. Now, for the first time, we actually have a way to treat the cause of the symptoms, not just medications to treat the symptoms. This is huge, and not just for the individual but when somebody has PTSD their whole family, all their loved ones, all their friends, they go through it, too. The treatment can potentially help a lot of people.” 

To learn more about the therapy or to see if you are eligible, call the clinic at 833-576-0075. Aviv Clinics offers free consultations for anyone dealing with PTSD or other health issues to determine eligibility for hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and Elamir recommends people look into the option. 

Martin hopes other veterans take advantage of hyperbaric oxygen therapy, because it has truly helped her.  

“Whatever it was and whatever it did, I’m so grateful,” Martin said. “It has incredibly changed my life.” 

Senior writer Veronica Wernicke can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5307, or