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A personal journey to helping others

By Nathan Tsukroff

LEWISTON – Dr. Philip McLean, a Doctor of Chiropractic at the Maximized Living Family Chiropractic Center on Lisbon Street in Lewison, was stricken with Lyme disease about 10 years ago.

“I had done the traditional treatment with doxycycline antibiotic, and it appeared to help and I felt great for about a year and a half. And then it came back . . . tired, fatigue, brain fog, muscle aches,” he said.

“So I did some more research and I found that the hyperbaric oxygen therapy could be helpful,” McLean said. He purchased what is referred to as a soft hyperbaric chamber and used it “five days a week for about two months” until the symptoms disappeared.

Dr. Philip McLean checks the pressure valve on the soft hyperbaric chamber he uses at his chiropractic practice for hyperbaric oxygen therapy to help improve the wellness of patients with various illnesses and injuries. (Tsukroff photo)

Now McLean helps others by providing the same hyperbaric oxygen therapy for those suffering with various symptoms from a variety of illnesses.

“We even have patients with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue,” and shingles, he said. Anyone who had chickenpox may develop shingles, a painful rash that may appear as a strip of blisters on the body. There are various established treatments for these illnesses, and patients have seen greater improvement in those treatments with the addition of HBO therapy.

“One of the things about HBOT, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, is that it doesn’t necessarily treat anything . . . it helps the body heal everything better,” McLean said. “We don’t use it as a direct treatment. But by oxygenating the tissues, it enhances the healing process of your body, so that’s mainly how it’s used.”

During HBOT, patients are placed into a pressurized chamber with a face mask to feed them a concentrated flow of oxygen. This increases the amount of oxygen in the patient’s blood, a condition called hyperoxia.

An Activator, a spring-loaded hand-held mechanical instrument, is used by Dr. Philip McLean of Maximized Living Family Chiropractic Center on Lisbon Street in Lewison to treat his patients. The device delivers a quick low-force impulse to spinal joints. (Tsukroff photo)

So-called soft chambers provide an increase of 1.3 times regular atmospheric pressure, while hard chambers allow for up to five times the regular atmospheric pressure. Swimming under water, divers will experience an increase of one atmosphere for every 30 feet of depth, so the pressure in a soft chamber is equivalent to diving to the bottom of a deep swimming pool.

The increased pressure pushes more oxygen into the blood, which helps to improve oxygen delivery to cells that are not getting enough oxygen, referred to as hypoxic tissue. Having a series of treatments can promote the growth of new blood vessels into the hypoxic tissues.

Hyperoxia also enhances the body’s ability to kill certain bacteria.

Hard hyperbaric chambers have been used for decades to treat the “bends”, a condition that occurs when someone moves too quickly from a high-pressure area back to normal atmospheric pressure, such as a deep sea diver returning to the surface in a hurry. The bends are caused by excessive nitrogen or other inert gasses in the blood that cause hard bubbles in the blood itself or in soft body tissue. The diver is generally treated at slightly less than three atmospheres of pressure while breathing 100% oxygen, and the pressure is slowly reduced to normal as the body absorbs the inert gasses back into the blood.

 People who have suffered a concussion see very quick improvement when using HBOT, Dr. McLean said. “We have some of the hockey teams that send over their kids when they’ve been concussed, and with a treatment or two, they’re back to normal.”

Dr. Philip McLean, a Doctor of Chiropractic at the Maximized Living Family Chiropractic Center on Lisbon Street in Lewison, zips a patient into the soft hyperbaric chamber at his practice. The chamber is used for hyperbaric oxygen therapy that increases the amount of oxygen in the blood stream to help the body heal faster from a variety of illnesses and injuries. He used this therapy himself to help overcome the symptoms of a Lyme disease infection from about 10 years ago. (Tsukroff photo)

A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury caused when a person gets a hit or a jolt to the head, perhaps on a hockey rink or in a car accident or a fall. The brain jostles in the head and bangs against the inside of the skull.

There is no specific cure for a concussion, and patients are told to rest and restrict activities to allow the brain to recover. “There is really not much that the medical practice does than wait,” McLean said. The hyperbaric therapy appears to help the body to heal faster, and “We have had people who’ve had a previous concussion, still-lingering effects, have another one . . . and have done extremely well” after a couple of HBO therapy sessions.

Dr. McLean said he had a diabetic patient with a hole through the sole of the foot, and the HBO therapy appeared to accelerate the healing process along with laser surgery.

There are several other hyperbaric chambers in southern Maine, including at St. Mary’s Center for Hyperbaric and Wound Care in Lewiston, at the Maine Medical Center Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine in Portland, at the Integrative Health Center of Maine in Cumberland Foreside, at Portland Chiropractic Neurology in Portland, and at the York Hospital Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Medicine facility in York.

Dr. McLean has been in practice nearly 25 years, using the Activator Method chiropractic technique. This involves a spring-loaded hand-held mechanical instrument, the Activator, which delivers a quick low-force impulse to spinal joints with the goal of restoring motion to the targeted joint. He said this is a more gentle approach for patients with severe arthritis, older patients, or someone with acute symptoms the prevent easy access to the affected part of the body.

Dr. McLean uses the Activator Method for about 60-70% of his patients, and the traditional manipulation for others, depending on their needs. “There’s a time and a place for everything,” he said.

His wife, Amy, works full-time in the practice with him.

Various other illnesses that respond well to HBO therapy include carbon monoxide poisoning, clostridial myositis and myonecrosis (“gas gangrene”), crush injuries, arterial insufficiencies, severe anemia, infections of bone or bone marrow, delayed radiation injury from radiation treatments, severe burns, and traumatic brain injuries.

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