Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Valsalva Maneuver

Since nobody seems to believe that I'm capable of writing anything serious (not even me) I want to prove them (well, us) wrong, and give it a go.
Plus, Jeremy (who is the most useless freediver on earth, but when it comes to writing he's my role model, my hero, my muse. You can read some of his funky stuff right here on this blog), challenged me to write something that for once is not about taking the piss out of him (or other useless freedivers) but something manual like about freediving. To which I answered "no way, manuals are for nerds" but then again I'm aware that lots of my blog readers are nerds, so I figured why not?

Now, I have been doing a lot of thinking before I could come up with something serious enough to write about, which, let me tell you, it hasn't been easy, since the only thing I have a hard time making fun of is death and diseases (being a neurotic hypochondriac).
So, I thought, what is as bad as a deadly disease?
I came up with 2 things:
The Valsalva maneuver and packing.
Now, I don't have the nerves to talk about packing: it upsets me.
Therefore Valsalva is what I'm about to write about.

The Valsalva maneuver is the most common way to equalize. This is what your scuba diving instructor will tell you to do during your first open water dive. Well, scuba instructors are actually not that advanced: very few of them are aware of the concept hidden behind equalization and what actually happens in your aerial cavities and passages when you perform it.
However, back to your scuba diving instructor, he won't tell you what the Valsalva is and how it works, but he will tell you instead "pinch your nose and blow", which most times will end up blowing your eardrum instead.
Now, I'm saying this not simply because I'm unfriendly with the scuba divers and I think most of them are pathetic, and they move in the water like zombies, and squeeze puffer fish and kick their fins all over the reef amongst other things.
No, I say that because I know.
I've taught freediving to few scuba instructors (which I enjoyed very much, since I love to take the piss when they do embarrassing things like frog kicking on a descent), and I always like to ask them "how do you equalize?" and they always say "I pinch and blow" to which I say "well, that's called Valsalva" to which they say "Valsalva? Isn't that some tasty Italian food?", to which I say "however, can you show me how you do it?" to which they pinch their nose and perform a Frenzel (it's very easy to see the difference) .

To which I say "actually that was a Frenzel that you just did", to which they say "Frenzel? Isn't that some dodgy german food?" to which I tell them to fuck off and the next day I call in sick and I send Marek to continue the course.

However, the point here is that lots of people do Frenzel thinking they're doing Valsalva, and it's ok if it is some clerk working in a useless office stamping paperwork all his life, but it's not ok when it is somebody that teaches diving for a living.

This summer I have been visiting my doctor at the recompression chamber several times a week, since I had a dodgy and very persistent ear infection. Now, this doctor is treating only about 5% of his patients with recompression treatment, another 5% with other minor injuries (mainly stupid snorkellers falling on the reef and getting coral burns - and unfortunately survive), maybe a 10% with ear infections, and the remaining 80% of the patients are going to see him because of ear barotraumas.
Most of them get hurt because they haven't been explained properly how to equalize, so I'm sitting there waiting for my turn, listening to dr. Heikal (who I think is a saint) explaining over and over again, several times a day, how to equalize to these people.
One day I felt so moved (and trust me, I don't feel moved very often) that I suggested to him that we run free equalization classes once a week so that these poor wannabe scuba divers have the chance to learn equalizing before starting their course and getting hurt.

So (and I apologize for the long intro), why then Valsalva is so bad?
Because of the aggressive way it is performed. When you do it, you pinch your nose and try to exhale forcefully against your closed lips. This will move air from the lungs into the mouth cavity, therefore increasing the pressure inside the mouth. This overpressure will force open the Eustachians tubes, which are narrow air passages which connect the mouth cavity with the middle ear. So now air will be free to pass through the E. tubes and get into the middle ear, equalizing the difference in pressure created by the descent.

This forceful "blowing" action will become harder and harder the deeper you go, since the air in your lungs will get more and more compressed, and therefore it will be more and more difficult to move it up to the mouth.
On top of that, the fact that freedivers (at least the real ones) go down head first, make equalizing Valsalva even more difficult, since you will have your lungs higher than your mouth, which means pushing air from up to down (while normally gas likes to go from down to up, which is for example the reason why you burp up gas from the stomach, or why it's easier to fart while doing headstands)(well, I don't know about that, but a yoga teacher friend of mine told me)

So basically, when you do Valsalva you are doing sit ups, since you are contracting your abdominal muscles on each single equalization. Now, I know a lot of freedivers that would need to do lots of sit ups because they look embarrassingly floppy and baggy, but I much more recommend doing this kind of exercise not while freediving.

Also, the frequency with which you can equalize with Valsalva is nowhere close to Frenzel. That means that when you do Frenzel you can equalize every 20cm if you like, while you can only Valsalva every 1 or 2 meters.
Why would you want to equalize as frequently as you can? Because if you do that and miss an equalization, you only miss a very little one, and you can catch up immediately after.
If on the other hand, if you equalize every couple of meters, and you miss an equalization, well, you are fucked so to say, and you have to stop your descent.

To add drama to the disaster, when you will start diving deeper than 30/40 meters, equalizing Valsalva will greatly contribute to give you a nice lung squeeze, because of the strain and tension you put on the diaphragm and in the chest area.

If you are a Valsaver, no need to worry. Even the dumber person on earth can learn to do Frenzel. Trust me, I taught lots of dumb people to freedive, and I know what I'm talking about (ask Jeremy, even he learnt Frenzel).
You just need to come to us, and ask for "FDD Frenzel speciality"; it's only 1 day, 2 dive sessions. If you are a slow learner (which is the politically correct way to call retarded people) we add the "Special Linda program" which is one extra session. Success is guaranteed, and you will only pay if we make you a Frenzeler (provided that you survive).
And if you pay lots of extra cash I even teach you how to make a proper Mouthfill (but don't forget we also accept credit card).

As for the gallery section of this entry, I would like to start with Mr. Valsalva, the guy who invented the evil maneuver. He was indeed Italian, but as you can see he's not classifiable as food (unless you are a cannibal), and he certainly doesn't look tasty.

And here you see what can happen when you do aggressive Valsalva: not only you can burst your eardrum, but you can even burst the hood of your wetsuit.

And here, you will see how Frenzel have changed the life of so many people that used to do Valsalva before:

Pim during his Valsalva period:

and Pim after he learnt Frenzel:

Marek before Frenzel:

Marek after Frenzel (ok, he turned a bit gay, but he dives much deeper):

Jeremy before Frenzel:

Jeremy after Frenzel (yes, i admit he didn't change much and he still looks as pathetic as before):

Martin before Frenzel:

I don't have a picture of Martin after, because he still didn't get there.

Me before Frenzel:

Me after Frenzel:

Herbert had the greatest change. From this:

To this (true, he lost all of his beautiful tan, but now he can dive much deeper)

1 comment:

noname said...

fabulous, linda! very funny, very informative, very good indeed! i do have some issues with the spelling but some of the quotes make up for that. my favourite (perhaps of all times) is the one about slow learners, or the politically correct way of calling retards!

so why is packing freaking you out so much that you dont even wanna write about it?? tell me that atleast...

cant wait to take the special linda session on mouthfill (i just reckoned there is a linda special in any and all categories).
bon voyage!!!