I wrote an article about why decompression sickness is called the bends to explain why its called the bends, but what is “bent” when you are suffering from decompression sickness? Let’s take a look…
What is bent when you are suffering from decompression sickness? Nothing is bent when you are suffering from decompression sickness. The term bent was originally used when afflicted individuals characteristically bent forward at the hips. The bends (decompression sickness or Caisson disease) occurs in scuba divers and is caused when dissolved gases come out of solution in bubbles.
The dissolved gases referred to above is mostly nitrogen. Being ‘bent’ can affect just about any part of the body. This includes the skin (or a skin bend), your joints, the lungs, the heart and the brain.
When a scuba diver has the bends what is bent in more detail?
I’m afraid this is going to be one of my shorter articles, as I know some can be quite long. There’s not much to say on this subject, but I felt it necessary to answer the question “when a scuba diver has the bends what is bent?”
Actually nothing is bent when you are suffering from decompression sickness as a scuba diver. The term ‘bent‘ and ‘the bends‘ comes from the history behind decompression sickness.
What is the history behind decompression sickness and the term ‘bends’ and ‘bent’?
It was Andrew Smith who first used the term “caisson disease“, which was the term used to describe 110 cases of decompression sickness.
Smith was the physician who was in charge of the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. It was here that these cases of caisson disease occurred.
This project employed 600 around ‘compressed air workers‘. But for them recompression treatment wasn’t used. This in turn is what caused the high numbers of decompression sickness in these divers.
It was during this project that decompression sickness became known as “The Grecian Bends” or simply “the bends“.
The reason for the term “The Bends” was because the afflicted individuals characteristically bent forward at the hips. This was as a result of the joint pain cause from the formation of bubbles in the joints.
But the term ‘the bends‘ was so used due to a then popular women’s fashion dance manoeuvre known as the Grecian Bend.
The Grecian bend was a term which was first applied to a stooped posture, which became fashionable in around 1820. At the time the “bend” was considered to be very daring!
It may well be that if you end up getting decompression sickness you’ll bend forward in pain yourself.
But I hope not and if you dive using safe diving practices this should not happen.
More Reading: At what depth can you get decompression sickness?
I hope you enjoyed this article about what is bent when you are suffering from decompression sickness
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