On incidents regarding lungpacking
Lungpacking, also known as carpa or buccal pumping, is a technique employed by freedivers to increase the pressure in their lungs above normal. This technique is believed to assist in achieving greater depths, distances and time. Recent events over the several last years have however indicated that this technique is not without risk.
Lungpacking is known to have caused various ailments, including, but not limited to, air in the arteries (air embolism), air between the lungs (pneumomediastinum), pneumothorax, and lungbleeding. All of these ailments can be potentially fatal when insufficiently recognized and treated. Factors influencing the risk of an incident have been known to be pressure increasing poses (stretching, yoga during lungpacking) and the combination of extreme lungpacking and certain disciplines (constant weight without fins, dynamic without fins). Bloodshift and / or a lungsqueeze might also affect the lung pressure after a deep dive when aided with lungpacking by further reducing the physical volume of the lungs.
To protect yourself from these incidents, it is therefore advised to:
a. Avoid dry lungpacking
b. Never increase lungpacking volumes significantly compared with previous volumes
c. Never combine lungpacking and pressure increasing postures (yoga or otherwise)
d. Be careful when considering lungpacking and diving (pool / depth) without fins.
e. Instructors, trainers and experienced freedivers should warn freedivers when they see potentially dangerous lungpacking behavior.
f. It is strongly recommended to report any negative experience with lungpacking, both in the past as in the present to the AIDA MSC to further improve safety and knowledge about this particular topic.
Medical & Science Officer
Now here are the comments we would like to add :
- We remind it is completely useless to pack for dives shallower than 60 or 70 meters. Before using this double-edged technique, prefer improving technique, relaxation, achieve sharp equalization technique. These will take you deeper or further way faster and safer.
- Unlike statement A, we think it is being on the safe side to regularly practice dry packing to train body and technique if you know how to do it correctly, rather than just packing when needed once in a while. We recommend to do this 3 times a week when training regularly or competing, to increase the number of packs really gradually – 1 to 2 each two weeks, and to never pack beyond 60-70% of your maximum. All this is part of the AIDA 4* course.
- Alveoli over stretched lose their elasticity and become porous, increasing risk or lung squeeze and air embolism.
- Concerning c. in my opinion there is an easy way to significantly reduce the risk: rather than stretching once packed and thus suffer the risk to injure yourself with a bad movement or too much packing, inhale, take the posture, THEN only pack, increasing volumes gradually over sessions (if you’re not familiar with these stretching techniques, even stretch with just a simple 80-90% inhale and no packing at first). This way, it is easy to stop and immediately release pressure if any discomfort is felt, before any pain. Remember that unlike your muscles which feel pain and warn you when to stop, lungs have really few pain receptors.
- Always exhale on the last part of your dive in depth freediving : a bit from 20m (Remember to warn your safety freediver, this can be confused with BO symptom), but specially on the last 10 meters. On the way up, air expands in your lungs faster than bloodshift reverses, so in a reduced available space, creating a dangerous high pressure.
And if you are still curious about packing, you can follow the interesting discussion on Facebook which followed Rik Rösken’s note.