Why Do Freedivers Decompress?

August 18, 2022 3 min read

Why do freedivers need to decompress? Breath-hold divers do not breathe compressed air, but their single breath of air is still subjected to the pressure of water at depth. While this causes the nitrogen in the breath to enter the tissues, nitrogen is released when the pressure decreases. Unlike other types of diving, freediving does not expose the body to the decompression sickness risks associated with compressed air.

Symptoms of Decompression Sickness in Freedivers

Symptoms of decompression sickness in a freediver may be vague and include joint pain, tingling, and difficulty in breathing. The symptom of shock is another indicator that decompression sickness is developing. Symptoms can vary in severity, but they are all indicative of a potentially serious medical condition. The presence of a bluish tint to the lips, pale clammy skin, or chest pain may also be indicative of a serious condition.

A less serious form of decompression sickness can present itself with pain in the arms, legs, or joints. The pain may be intermittent at first, but may become severe and worsen with movement. The symptoms may also include rash, joint pain, or extreme fatigue. Decompression sickness can also cause painful muscle cramps or a swollen arm or leg. If you notice any of these symptoms, seek medical help right away.

Methods of Controlled Decompression in Freediving

The use of methods of controlled decompression is an important part of freediving. Despite the fact that the process of decompression is very important, freedivers should be cautious about the risks involved. The main reason why a freediver should use methods of controlled decompression is that it can cause negative effects if not properly performed. As such, freedivers must make sure they know the proper methods of decompression before starting any dive.

The most common method is on-gassing more nitrogen. While diving, divers are required to stop and let the gas move out of their tissues. They continue to move closer to the surface between stops. One way to think of decompression is by analogy with opening a carbonated drink: as the gas pressure builds up, the body reacts by equilibrating its nitrogen saturation.

Risk Factors for Decompression Sickness in Freedivers

The most common symptoms of decompression sickness in freedivers are extreme joint pain, doubling over from the pain, and a rapid ascent. To avoid the onset of DCS, freedivers should practice safe diving techniques and follow recreational diving guidelines. A diver's breathing pressure can also cause DCS. In addition, the frequency and duration of dives must be limited and the surface interval should be at least three or four times the time spent underwater. Moreover, freedivers must wear proper thermal protection and drink electrolytes to avoid decompression stress.

One of the risk factors for decompression sickness in freediving is an unclosed patent foramen ovale. This hole, located between the left and right chambers of the heart, is naturally closed within 75% of cases. This opens the way for blood loaded with nitrogen to bypass the lungs and enter the arterial system. If this happens, the decompression sickness symptoms are almost always severe.

Scuba Diving as a Preventative Measure for Decompression Sickness in Freedivers

Scuba diving has long been recommended as a preventive measure for freedivers, but it is also important to be aware of the risks and symptoms of decompression sickness. Scuba sickness, or dysbarism, occurs when the lung volume exceeds its normal capacity when diving. The condition may cause blue lips or skin and is a serious medical emergency. While the causes of decompression sickness vary, most symptoms are treatable with proper training and scuba equipment.

The most effective way to avoid decompression sickness in freedivers is to scuba dive regularly. Nitrogen narcosis, also known as narcosis, is caused by a buildup of nitrogen in the body. This condition occurs when diving more than 85 feet. It is dangerous for both scuba divers and freedivers alike, and the symptoms can be life-threatening.

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