What is bent when you are suffering from decompression sickness?

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

What is bent when you are suffering from decompression sickness in 20 seconds…

Nothing is actually bent when you are suffering from decompression sickness. The term bent or the bends comes from the history behind decompression sickness. The reason for the term “The Bends” was used is because the afflicted individuals characteristically bent forward at the hips. The bends (decompression sickness (DCS) or Caisson disease) occurs in scuba divers. It occurs when gases dissolved in the body (mostly nitrogen) come out of solution in bubbles. Being ‘bent’ can affect just about any part of the body including the skin, your joints, the lungs, the heart and brain.

When a scuba diver has the bends what is bent?

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.

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. This means you should make sure you ascend slowly to decompress properly and always carry out a safety stop. But also, dive with consideration to the various decompression risk factors too.

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

I’d love to hear from you. Tell us about your adventures of diving and snorkelling. Please use the comments section below. Please also share your photos. Either from your underwater cameras or videos from your waterproof go-pro’s!

If this article hasn’t answered all of your questions. If you have more questions either about snorkelling or scuba diving (or specifically about what is bent when you are suffering from decompression sickness), please comment below with your questions.

There will also be many more articles about scuba and scuba diving safety tips (and on snorkelling too) for you to read and learn about this fabulous sport.

Have fun and be safe!

What is bent when you are suffering from decompression sickness?

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