I sealed myself in an oxygen chamber, here's why I won't rush to do it again

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Writer stood outside of oxygen chamber. (Supplied)
Would you try an oxygen chamber? (Supplied)

I have to admit, I tried to put everything an oxygen chamber actually entails to the back of my mind until the very moment I stepped into it. I knew if I thought about it too much beforehand, I would put myself off...and I didn't want that to happen.

With Justin Bieber known to sleep in one and a growing number of celebs and health gurus swearing by them, I knew this was the biohacking treatment I couldn't not test out.

Booked in at The HVN – a 'premier destination' offering 'science based health and wellness experiences' in Knightsbridge – I found myself feeling pretty calm on arrival. Who wouldn't be when they're greeted by bird sounds echoing through the walls, a calming scent, and an aesthetic tropical interior in replica of the rainforest?

I was given a seat in a little nook with some green tea, before I signed some consent forms (did I just sign my life away?) and she talked me through what to expect. Speaking very softly, dressed in a clinical-looking beige outfit, and looking very 'well' herself, it felt like I was in a sci-fi movie.

We then went into a smaller room where the oxygen chamber was (also very futuristic looking), and suddenly it all felt a bit more daunting.

Ah yes, I have to stay closed inside that thing for an hour...

Photos of The HVN. (Yahoo Life UK)
The HVN in Knightsbridge opened in October 2023. (Yahoo Life UK)

🧘Health hack reviewed: Oxygen chamber

⭐Celebs who've tried it: Justin Bieber, Michael Phelps, UK's leading biohacker Tim Gray

⏰ Time of treatment: 60 mins

💸Price: One session is £120, and courses start from £80

✅Pros experienced: Calmer mind, more energy

❌Cons experienced: Slight panic, painful ears, slight headache, sore throat and blocked ears after

📝Rating: 2.5/5

Oxygen chamber. (Yahoo Life UK)
A Henshaw hyperbaric chamber. (Yahoo Life UK)

The team at The HVN explain that hyperbaric oxygen therapy can increase oxygen levels in the blood supply by up to 70%. By allowing the body to maximise its oxygen intake, blood is able to flow nutrients to where your body needs them, which is intended to provide a naturally relaxing and reviving sensation after treatment. Proposed benefits include improved energy levels and cell renewal post-treatment.

The first documented use of hyperbaric therapy was in 1662 when British physician Nathanial Henshaw built a pressurised room to treat his patients with pulmonary and digestive conditions. Today, they're becoming increasingly popular with athletes to help speed up the recovery process.

When flying or travelling oxygen levels can deplete, so this treatment can successfully counteract that symptom. However, The HVN team warns, hyperbaric oxygen therapy should be avoided at least 48 hours before and after flying to allow the ears to equalise between being exposed to fluctuating pressure levels.

Oxygen chamber. (Yahoo Life UK)
Feeling slightly unnerved at the start of my session... (Yahoo Life UK)

To start, the practitioner talked me through how the machine works and the safety controls.

While you can hit the emergency exit button from inside to open the sealed door yourself, I was advised it would be best to call for help with the alarm button and let them do it instead.

This is so they can gradually reduce the pressure first rather than there being a sudden change, which could cause my eardrums to burst.

Right...I'm feeling slightly less relaxed now.

I braced myself before clambering into the chamber and putting the oxygen mask on.

Before the practitioner shut the door, I did start to feel panicked, but she was very reassuring and said she'd be sitting on the chair next to me the whole time, regularly checking in on me with the phone on the machine (I could hear her voice inside and she mine through the line).

Instantly, I felt hot — maybe from being overwhelmed, or maybe from the huge robe I was wearing due to my own clothes having metal on them — so I made use of the fan button to try and cool down. Okay, that was better.

But, as she increased the pressure, my ears started to hurt. I was warned this might happen, as it typically does for me on planes, but the more it rose, the worse they were getting, and I started to feel another wave of panic rush over me.

I asked if my eardrum was at risk of bursting from this and she said no, but that I could get out at any point if it didn't calm down.

But there with a job to do, I stuck it out until the levels were at their highest (The HVN does it to 1.3 ATA, equivalent to three metres below sea level) and my ears did start to acclimatise.

Phew.

I then relaxed into it a bit, even shutting my eyes and finding it surprisingly easy to half doze off. But each time I opened them, I would anxiously remember I was sealed inside a tube and out of reach of any water while air pumped around me in a slightly alarming-sounding way.

I had to keep on telling myself I was safe and to think of the benefits. Perhaps this was helped by my mind starting to feel less overactive with the oxygen my lungs were being fed with.

When the time was over, the practitioner slowly reduced the pressure and the whirring sounds intensified. I was ready for it to end.

On climbing out, I noticed I had a slight headache, sore throat and blocked ears.

However, in a weird, almost bionic way, I definitely did feel like I'd just been pumped full of oxygen. I felt both calm and alert at the same time.

After some food and water, I noticed the effects of my newfound energy more and my mind continued to be more calm and clear.

That evening I met a friend for a drink, and stayed sober, as I definitely didn't feel like I needed the buzz of alcohol.

But, I still had the pesky headache, sore throat and couldn't hear what she was saying all that well.

  • Reassuring practitioner

  • Less overactive mind

  • More energy

  • Slight claustrophobia

  • Painful ears from pressure (which was a bit stressful and panic-inducing while sealed inside)

  • A headache, sore throat and blocked ears after

The HVN. (Yahoo Life UK)
I think I'll leave the oxygen chambers for now. (Yahoo Life UK)

Now I know what to expect, I am not sure if it could either help to ease myself more into it or if the anticipation would make it worse.

Either way, I'd probably have to psych myself up for it, and while I could see my time spent in the oxygen chamber as a real exercise in staying calm, I'm not sure that's what I want from my wellness treatments.

I struggle with the fact I do believe benefits exist from hyperbaric therapy, which I'm sure I could build on over time. But I didn't enjoy the battered feeling that came with it, namely the head, throat and ear symptoms, along with the claustrophobia.

And as just a regular Joe not recovering from an intense sport or illness, I think I'll leave it for now.

I definitely would go to their wellness spa again, but I'd quite like to try a more relaxing treatment, to match the atmosphere of the place.

Read more: I tried cryotherapy to see if freezing myself at -85 degrees C is worth the hype (Yahoo Life UK)

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