Can you Get Bends Freediving? Risk of Developing Bends

Have you ever wondered if it’s possible to get bends freediving? What about freediving, where you rely only on holding your breath? Surprisingly, the risk of developing bends in freediving is relatively low compared to scuba diving. 

Because freedivers do not use breathing apparatus, they are not exposed to compressed air and significant changes in pressure during ascent and descent. However, it is important to note that extreme freediving depths or repeated deep dives may still pose some risk, especially if breath-holding limits are exceeded. 

Can you Get Bends Freediving? Risk of Developing Bends

Safety measures such as proper training, gradual acclimatization, and diving protocols can minimize the chances of getting kinks while freediving. So if you’re thinking about exploring the underwater world through freediving, rest assured that kinks aren’t a major problem as long as you follow safe practices and stay within your limits.

Can you Get Bends Freediving? Comprehensive Guidelines

There are several important steps you can take to reduce your risk of decompression sickness, also known as “the bends.” These guidelines apply to both scuba diving and freediving:

  1. Allow Enough Surface Intervals

One of the most important aspects is to spend enough time on the surface between dives. Regardless of the depth of your dive, it is recommended to have a surface interval of at least three times the duration of the previous dive. 

This means that if you dive to 10 or 50 meters, you should spend three times the duration of the dive on the surface before you dive again (unless you did a decompression stop).

  1. Ascend Slowly and Make Safety Stops

When exiting a dive, ascending slowly is essential so your body can safely outgas excess nitrogen. Additionally, incorporating safety stops during your ascent can further aid nitrogen outgassing and reduce risk.

  1. Track Your Depth and Bottom Time

Keep in mind the depth and duration of your dives. Longer and deeper dives usually increase the risk of decompression sickness. 

  1. Avoid Repeated and Extreme Dives

Repeated diving, which involves multiple dives in a short period of time, increases the risk of decompression sickness. Planning dives so that there are sufficient surface intervals between dives is essential. Similarly, intense dives with extended bottom times require careful consideration and should be approached with caution.

Follow Recommended Dive Profiles

Different types of dives, such as recreational dives, technical dives, and deep dives, have specific recommended dive profiles and decompression procedures. Please read and follow these guidelines to minimize the risk of decompression sickness.

Can you Get Bends Freediving? Risk of Developing Bends
  • Length of Breath Hold

Holding your breath for a long time during freediving can also contribute to the accumulation of nitrogen in the body. As you hold your breath, body tissues absorb nitrogen due to the increased pressure. 

Longer duration of breath holding increases the risk of developing decompression sickness during ascent. To minimize the risk of nitrogen ingestion, it is recommended to practice proper breath-holding techniques, including relaxation and controlled breathing.

  • Repeated Dives

Engaging in repeated dives in a short period of time increases the risk of decompression sickness in freedivers. Each dive increases the body’s nitrogen load, and without sufficient surface intervals for degassing, nitrogen accumulates in the tissues. This can lead to nitrogen saturation and an increased likelihood of bubbles. 

Adequate surface intervals between dives allow the elimination of excess nitrogen and reduce the risk of decompression sickness. The length of the surface intervals should be based on the depth and time of the previous dive.

  • Symptoms of Bends

Decompression sickness, including bends, can manifest itself with various symptoms. Mild cases may include joint pain, fatigue, and itchy skin. More severe cases can lead to neurological symptoms such as dizziness, confusion, numbness, tingling sensations, or even paralysis. 

Pulmonary symptoms may also occur, including difficulty breathing or chest pain. Recognizing and promptly addressing any symptoms that may indicate decompression sickness is essential.

  • Preventive measures

Minimizing the risk, In addition to the points mentioned above, other preventive measures can help reduce the risk of decompression sickness during freediving

  • Equalization Techniques

Proper equalization techniques are essential to prevent barotrauma and maintain a safe freediving experience. Learning and practicing effective equalization methods, such as the Valsalva or Frenzel maneuver, can help equalize pressure in the ears and sinuses, reducing the risk of injury and potential complications.

  • Warm-up And Recovery

A thorough warm-up routine before freediving helps prepare the body for the upcoming dive and improves blood circulation. Allowing sufficient time to recover and relax after a dive is essential to off-gas excess nitrogen and promote overall well-being.

  • Proper Maintenance of Equipment

Regular inspection and maintenance of freediving equipment, including masks, snorkels, and wetsuits, ensures proper functioning and minimizes potential risks during dives. Equipment failure or ill-fitting equipment can cause stress and increase the likelihood of disorientation or panic.

  • Stay Informed

Stay informed about the latest freediving research, techniques, and safety practices. Attend workshops, seminars, or training sessions led by experienced freedivers or organizations promoting safe diving practices. Constant learning and staying informed can help you make informed decisions and adapt to evolving security standards.

Remember, these preventive measures can significantly reduce the risk of decompression sickness, freediving always carries inherent risks. It is essential to prioritize safety, be mindful of your limits, and never dive alone.

Also, Read How Long can Freedivers Hold Their Breath?


The bends, also known as decompression sickness (DCS), is a condition that can occur when a person ascends too quickly from a deep dive or dive with compressed air. It happens when dissolved gases, especially nitrogen, form bubbles in the bloodstream and tissues.

Generally, the risk of getting the bends while freediving is significantly lower than scuba diving. Since freedivers do not breathe compressed air or use scuba equipment, their exposure to nitrogen is minimal, reducing the chances of developing decompression sickness.

Freedivers usually follow a “one breath” approach, holding their breath while diving and surfacing before significant nitrogen absorption occurs. As a result, the ascent is usually much faster than when diving, reducing the risk of decompression sickness.

While decompression sickness can be mild to severe, in rare cases it can be life-threatening or even fatal if left untreated. Recognizing the symptoms and seeking appropriate medical attention as soon as possible is essential.

Final Verdict

Although the risk of developing bends in freediving is relatively lower than in scuba diving, it is not lacking. Freedivers must be aware of the potential danger of decompression sickness and take appropriate precautions to minimize the risk. 

Following safe diving practices, maintaining proper hydration, and obtaining adequate training are essential to ensure an enjoyable and safe freediving experience. Safety should always be the top priority when exploring the depths of a single breath.

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