Osteopathy: use the oximeter

What is normal blood oxygen level (SpO2)?

The blood oxygen level can easily be measured with a cheap pulse oximeter. It is a noninvasive device that estimates the amount of oxygen in your blood. It does so by sending infrared light into capillaries in your finger, toe, or earlobe. Then it measures how much light is reflected off the gases.
A reading indicates what percentage of your blood is saturated. This test has a 2 percent error window.

Normal: If a pulse ox measured your blood oxygen level, a normal reading is typically between 95 and 100 percent.
Hypoxemia: below 95 and a cause for concern.

What happens when the oxygen level is too low?
When the blood oxygen level goes outside the typical range, the patient may begin experiencing symptoms such as:
• Shortness of breath.
• Chest pain.
• Confusion.
• Headache.
• Rapid heartbeat.
• Sweating.
• Wheezing.
• Restlessness.
• Dizziness.
• Visual disorders.
If the patient continues to have low blood oxygen levels, he/she may show symptoms of cyanosis. (blue discoloration of the nail beds, skin, and mucus membranes). Cyanosis is considered an emergency. Cyanosis can lead to respiratory failure, which can be life-threatening.

Different conditions can have an influence on blood oxygen levels to be low:
• COPD (including chronic bronchitis and emphysema)
• Acute respiratory distress syndrome
• Asthma.
• Collapsed lung.
• Anemia.
• Congenital heart defects.
• Heart disease.
• Pulmonary embolism.

The above conditions may prevent the lungs from adequately inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide. Blood disorders and problems with the circulatory system may prevent the blood from picking up oxygen and transporting it throughout the body.

People who smoke may have an inaccurately high pulse ox reading. Smoking causes carbon monoxide to build up in your blood. A pulse ox can’t tell the difference between this other type of gas and oxygen. If you need to know your blood oxygen level and are a smoker, an Arterial Blood Gas (ABG) measurement (blood test) may be the only way to receive an accurate reading.

Although it does have a margin of error, a pulse ox reading is usually accurate enough. If you require a more precise measurement, you can refer to an ABG test.

Best ways to increase oxygen level in blood:
• Exercise, especially when the patient feels fatigue, tiredness and exhaustion, one of the best ways is to increase oxygen levels in the blood by exercising (of course when there is no severe pathology present).
• Antioxidants: When foods are consumed with antioxidants, the body can use oxygen in a better way. Certain vitamins, including vitamins E and C, have antioxidant properties. You may eat foods like cranberries, blueberries, red kidney beans and dark leafy vegetables to enhance your intake of antioxidants.
• Improvement in posture: this will erect the thoracic spine and ribs for a better gas exchange.
• Evading CO2 and carbon monoxide: try to avoid areas and regions where the concentration of carbon monoxide and similar gases are higher. It is hard to find such areas in urban regions though. Nevertheless, try to avoid roads where traffic congestion is more. Get fresh air!
• Eat food with essential fatty acids: these foods are ideal if you want to increase the amount of oxygen in the blood stream. Foods with compounds like alpha-linolenic acid and linoleic acid are very useful in this regard. You should eat plenty of soybeans, flaxseeds and walnuts.
• Quit alcohol, drugs and smoking.
• Use deep breathing techniques.
• Loose weight.

Osteopaths treat (aim = increase exchange surface, increase heart function, correct neurological conduction)
• Heart and lung function over the thoracic spine, ribs and upper cervicals.
• The diaphragm.
• Correct posture.


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