Suspension to nerve damage in 60 seconds

Posted on Tue, 26 November 2013

I recently read an on-line guide that suggested that nerve damage was the result of "prolonged pressure" on a nerve. This is most definitley not so. A 'dead arm' is nerve damage and that happens in a split second. Here's an incident report showing it happening in seconds.

"I did a self-suspension a few days ago and seem to have some minor nerve damage. The chest harness was a kind of modified takatekote, with only the left arm tied into the harness and the left hand tied behind the back, with the right arm free. A line was threaded through the right side of the harness (on the right side of the chest, through both upper and lower bands) and that was attached to the hard point. I also had a half gunslinger harness around the hips and right thigh, which was attached to the hard point. A loose cuff tied with a portuguese bowline around the left leg also attached to the hard point. My right wrist was tied around the body to itself, which released by simply letting go. This self-suspension allowed for movement through a series of different positions. I realized after about a minute in the air that my radial nerve on my left arm was getting a lot of pressure, and that I should try to relieve that pressure, and first I tried to do so by changing positions in the air. I moved through a series of different positions that I thought might relieve the pressure, some of them did improve the situation, but one worsened it, and at that point, I started to come down.

From the moment I decided to come down, to getting my feet on the floor bearing my weight, was about 60 seconds. The pressure felt relieved as soon as I got my foot on the floor. It was several more minutes before I was completely untied. I did not reach for my scissors or ask for assistance because the problem seemed to be resolved as soon as the chest harness was not weight-bearing. After I was totally untied and out of the slightly spacey suspension headspace, I realized that my ring finger and pinkie finger on my left hand were quite tingly ("pins and needles). That feeling did not completely subside for about 20 minutes. At that point, I thought everything was fine. I could move each of my fingers individually and did not notice any unusual pain or reduced range of motion. About 24 hours later, I noticed that the problem was still present. Using my hand for dexterity activities such as typing and texting, I notice that my hand feels slower than usual. More significantly, activities involving grasping or applying pressure, such as turning a knob or using a knife, are very difficult and nearly impossible to do without a shooting pain. I noticed slightly reduced flexion in my wrist and a quite noticible reduced flexion in my thumb. I have phantom sensations and occasional shooting pains on the inner side of my left arm, on and off for a few days.

Since I am right-handed, this all has had little affect on my daily activities. It seems to be getting slightly better each day."

In answer to additional questions from me: "Ropes were cinched, front and back, if I understand your question correctly. The ropes were cinched like a standard takatekote, except only one arm was part of the tie. Rope was 6mm hemp. No knots or joints were caught between arm and torso; rather the pressure was on the outer side of the arm. The pinky and ring finger were affected initially, and those symptoms disappeared within 20 minutes or so, but later it was the wrist and thumb flexion and the occasional shooting pain down the nerve in the arm that have lingered for a few days."

That the "pinky and ring finger were affected initially" seems to indicate some ulnar compression but the "the wrist and thumb flexion" appear to be the result of radial injury. It unclear exactly how the injury occurred but unlike a "standard takatekote", it appears that the wraps "were cinched, front and back". The catching of both wraps is non-standard in the takate kote styles I have studied and certainly advised against if the tie is used for suspension.

I suspect it was reverse engineered or a tie made up on the spur of the moment. We will probably never know as I did not get a reply to my request for a photo. However, it is for good reason that I caution those without a clear understanding of the principals behind a tie from reverse engineering. As I always say, you can build something that looks like a plane with no aeronautical background but there's only a slim chance it will fly like one. Same rules apply to suspension ties!