Dive Tips: How NOT to Get Bends

Text By: Dr. Ben Luna – Puerto Galera Dive Guide

There are two sure-fire ways to avoid getting bent: Do not dive and do not ascend.

Serious DCS (Decompression sickness) or DCI (Decompression Illness) or whatever the favored term is for the moment has happened to your friend… or maybe to the friend of a friend. It doesn’t have to be an up close and personal kind of acquaintance. Somehow, within a generally small diving community, you do find out about someone getting hit and the usual (unkind, at best) remark goes something like these: “what did he do wrong”, “was he showing off?”, “was he licensed to dive?”, to name a few. The thing is, and I bet you know what I’m about to say, as it has been said much too often. It can happen to anyone and it can happen to you!

Photo © Gunther Deichmann

True, it is a rare animal, but it knows no race and it knows no religion and it certainly knows no level of dive certification. Will anything you do or not do guarantee a bends-free dive? Again, you know the answer to that. NONE. But it certainly helps to know a few do’s and don’ts to try and minimize the occurrence of this sorry affliction.

First, the cliche (ho-hum): Plan your dive and dive your plan. “LET’S GO OVER THERE” just won’t cut it. It isn’t a plan. It’s a disaster waiting to happen. Next, be physically and mentally fit to dive. Being grossly obese or having a terrible cold or a hangover or getting astronomically pissed off with your astronomical sales quota in the office just doesn’t make you seaworthy. Cancel that dive!

Stay young. If that’s not at all possible, at least know and accept that you are older than last year. Dive conservatively Add a penalty or two. Don’t test the limits of your tables or your computer.

Stay cool. And of course you know the best way to avoid panicking under or above water: Be well trained and well conditioned for your planned dives.

Descend slowly, ascend slowly, go shallow, make shorter dives, and make fewer dives. Rest after your dives. Drink lots of water. Don’t take a hot bath, go up a mountain, or fly so soon after diving. Above all, be sensible.

Note however that some are just more susceptible to DCS than others and a medical evaluation to check for predisposing causes, such as a patent foramen oval should be worthwhile.

Fun dives are good, planned dives are better, and bent-free dives are certainly best!