panic attack followed by headache that doesn't want to go away

Discussion in 'Near Misses and Lessons Learned' started by Limoges Diver, Sep 4, 2011.

  1. Limoges Diver

    Limoges Diver Single Diver

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Location: Limoges, ON
    85
    0
    0
    I had two incidents last week (it's Sunday morning of labour Day Weekend as I'm writing this):
    On Tuesday, I went on a charter dive on the St. Lawrence River in Brockville,Ontario. There was a strong current, but nothing insurmountable. The boat was tied off at a buoy, and there was a 2" diameter rope running from the aft of he boat to the bow, and eventually to the buoy. I was the first to enter the water: I jumped in, wing partly inflated floated up to the surface - everything OK so I motion to the Captain my OK, and I swim the the bow of the boat to grab a hold of the rope. As I'm waiting for the rest of our group, I find myself struggling to breath properly. I get the feeling of Co2 retention, so I close my eyes and try to lax and take deep breaths, and exhale completely. It doesn't work, and I start to get a headache, and I decided then to cancel my dive. I swam to the back of the boat (still feeling panicky, but less as I get back in the boat). After I got on, I had wobbly legs, feeling of dizziness, weakness, and a headache. I attributed this to low blood sugar levels as I had not eaten anything for almost 5 hours prior. I had drank fluids before the dive, so I don't think it was dehydration. After the I got back on chore, I took some pain killers and ate dinner, and the next morning I felt good, although a bit tired.
    On Friday, I decided to do a shore dive on a lake (i.e. no current). I knew the waters pretty well, and I made sure I was well-fed, well-hydrated, and that my gear was working well(checked regulator pressure (low pressure was 140 psig as per the manufacturer's instructions). I inflate my wing, and use my snorkel as I'm swimming on the surface to deeper waters. I'm making sure I am not exerting myself physically, and that my breathing is normal. When I get to waters that are about 5-6 feet deep I decide to go underwater. So I switch to my regulator, and breath for a while on the surface with it to get accustomed to it. After I feel I am breathing OK, I deflate my wing, and descend to the bottom.
    I swim down slowly to 10-11 feet, and was using my fins a bit, but not much - I was just swimming slowly, observing fish, etc... All of a sudden I get that feeling of Co2 retention, and get that shortness of breath. So instead of bolting up to the surface, I do as I was instructed to do, and stop, relax, close y eyes, concentrate on taking deep breaths, and on exhaling them completely so I don't get Co2 retention. Well, that didn't last very long. After about 10 minutes underwater, I surfaced. Since I had only been 10 feet down, and only for a short time, I didn't think I needed to do anything other than surface and inflate my wing, and swim to shore. Now I don't know how long I took to surface, but suppose I didn't do it in 10 seconds (following the 1 second per foot rule), but most likely in 5 seconds...
    I then surfaced, and had a panic attack. I knew I wanted t rip off all my gear and swim ashore (I was about 100 feet from being able to touch the bottom with my feet), but I kept my head on my shoulders, and started to swim to shore with my gear on. I was very low on energy at that point, so I called out to a guy on shore and asked for help. he swam out to me, and helped me back to shore. By the time I got on sore, I had a pounding headache and my neck muscles on he back of my neck hurt real bad. I felt almost nauseous , very week (BTW, I had not over-exerted myself - I run, hike, etc... a lot more than what energy I expended then - I was doing very relaxed dive), but the main thing was this splitting head ache that hurt with every beat of my heart.
    That headache and neck pain started at 4:30 ish when I had the panic attack, and got a bit better once I got back to camp. All day Saturday I still had the headache and neck pain (ibuprofen is helping a bit, but not much). If I was to chart t pain levels with 10/10 being 4:30 Friday, by Saturday morning it was about 7.5/10, and this morning 9:00 AM Sunday it's about a 5.5/10

    Any ideas why I have this headache and neck pain? As it's the long weekend, i won't be able to see a specialist for a couple days, and I don't trust the emergency room doctors (that got stuck with the Labour Day Weekend ****) at the local hospital (I'm back at home in the middle of farmland) to know anything about diving accidents.

    My main confusion centres around the fact that I was only at 10 feet and only 10 minutes underwater and not under physical exertion. Also, I knew my regulator was OK since I had used it on multiple dives a couple weeks prior, and checked the delivery pressure - I also made sure the valve was open all the was by taking deep breaths ad checking for the pressure gauge to make sure it didn't go down (indicating a problem with the regulator or a partially-open valve).

    Thanks.
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2011
  2. dmoore19

    dmoore19 Denizen of the PUB ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Colorado, United States
    27,800
    18,154
    113
    Did you use the same tank on both dives? Have you checked the gas in the tank?
     
    solensdotter and Limoges Diver like this.
  3. Limoges Diver

    Limoges Diver Single Diver

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Location: Limoges, ON
    85
    0
    0
    No, I used two different tanks filled at two different places. The last tank (which I own - not rent like the one on Tuesday) was filled at my LDS, which I have 100% confidence in. So, since it was two different places and two different tanks, I think that the air quality is not an issue. Also, the air didn't smell bad, as I check it every time. Now my tank is still full of air (about 2800 psi), so I can get it tested.
     
  4. DevonDiver

    DevonDiver Tech Instructor ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: Subic Bay, Philippines
    13,736
    6,208
    113
    Demanding dive = elevated stress = faster, shallower breathing = CO2 retention = persistent headache.

    That's my guess, regardless of attempted breath control. Panic attack upon surfacing tends to substantiate this.

    A demanding dive is anything that can potentially take you beyond your comfort zone, physically or mentally.

    Lesson to be learnt: Know when to abort/abandon a dive. Regardless of experience levels, I wouldn't have gotten into the water if I was in the state you describe.
     
  5. Limoges Diver

    Limoges Diver Single Diver

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Location: Limoges, ON
    85
    0
    0
    I wasn't in that state before the dive: I was relaxed (even had a nap that afternoon), well-fed, hydrated,and was really enjoying myself.The dive wasn't demanding - I was only at 10 feet in no current, and all my gear felt good, etc... I was in my comfort zone.
    I don't know about elevated stress, but the attempted and aborted dive on Tuesday was on the back of my mind, but I was not thinking about it once I was underwater: I felt great, was relaxed, and was able to reason clearly. It just came out of nowhere. I will get my regulator checked out though - gotta make sure I have enough air.
     
  6. TSandM

    TSandM Missed and loved by many.

    # of Dives:
    Location: Woodinville, WA
    36,352
    13,489
    0
    You said you checked the intermediate pressure on your regulator -- but did you check the cracking pressure? Does your reg have a pre-dive setting, and if so, are you sure it was not still set on that? This really, really sounds like CO2 to me, and having the cracking pressure too high can set you up for that.

    Failing that, if this was the SAME tank, is it possible you got a bad fill which, even when topped off at your LDS, had enough of something in it to give you symptoms?
     
    solensdotter and Limoges Diver like this.
  7. melanie.

    melanie. Barracuda

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Ontario, Canada
    220
    86
    0
    Have you ever experienced migraines?

    The weakness, dizziness, lack of energy, neck pain, feeling your heartbeat in your head are all symptoms I get. The majority of times my head will hurt but not always.

    Perhaps you are pinching a nerve, tilting your head weird, or straining something you are unaware of that is causing a migraine? Making your body feel "not-right" and having the need to get the heck out of the water.

    Just another angle to consider. It doesn't explain everything but maybe something to rule out
     
    Limoges Diver likes this.
  8. Limoges Diver

    Limoges Diver Single Diver

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Location: Limoges, ON
    85
    0
    0
    No, it was not the same tank at all.

    What is this cracking pressure you are referring to? Pardon my noobiness.

    Also, why would a headache last over 48 hours? I still have it, although it is reduced considerably. It just boggles my mind how 10 minutes under water can result in this.
     
  9. Limoges Diver

    Limoges Diver Single Diver

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Location: Limoges, ON
    85
    0
    0
    Thanks for the idea: No, I have not had migraines ever and I'm 48 years old.

    Re pinched nerve - my wife thinks it could be that, but I don't know how I could get the Co2 retention symptoms like that. I'm more inclined to believe it's a problem with my regulator not delivering the right amount of air when I need lots of it. I will get my regs checked out and see what the technician says.
     
  10. TSandM

    TSandM Missed and loved by many.

    # of Dives:
    Location: Woodinville, WA
    36,352
    13,489
    0
    Cracking pressure is how much suction you have to put on the regulator to get the valve to open and deliver air. It should be almost, but not quite effortless. When regulators have a "pre-dive" setting, what that does is increase the cracking pressure, to make it more difficult for air to come out and reduce the likelihood of freeflows. If you don't change that to "dive", you have to work harder than you should to draw air from the regulator, and this can increase the chance of CO2 retention.
     
    Ayisha likes this.
  11. Limoges Diver

    Limoges Diver Single Diver

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Location: Limoges, ON
    85
    0
    0
    Thank you - thought so, and I could have researched this, but your answer is very clear to the point!

    The point you are making here is that the cracking pressure is something that can be adjusted once you're in the water, right? I have 2 mouthpieces: one with and one without an adjustment. I was told that the one with the adjustment is my back-up one. Anyway. I am now thinking about buying a new regulator, octo, etc... so I know that I have enough air delivery and dependable equipment. I was thinking about a ScubaPro setup that has a lifetime warranty for parts. I know this isn't an equipment-related thread, but does anyone have any recommendations regarding regulators that have lifetime parts warranty and have the ability to give this air hog enough air?

    Now, its Monday morning when replying to you, and I still have soreness in my neck, still am a bit dizzy and I have a slight headache still. 2.5 days later??? If I had not enough air being delivered, would that result in these symptoms? I thought that what I was feeling was Co2 retention. I was also under the understanding that Co2 retention headaches go in a few minutes to a few hours - not a few days.
    Does anyone have any ideas?

    I am assuming that my regulator could get checked out to find out what the cracking pressure is. I want to know even if I'm buying a new regulator since I want to make sure that it was the equipment that failed and not my body.
     
  12. Bombay High

    Bombay High Barracuda

    # of Dives:
    Location: India
    488
    217
    0
    It is possible that your symptoms are completely unrelated to the dive. The dive just triggered it. Even a high CO2 level should not hold symptoms 3 days later.
    On the other hand (and I dont mean to imply that this is the case) the lasting symptoms could be imagined.
    I have a colleague who imagines DCS symptoms after every dive (this is someone who dives for a living).
    Maybe get your tank tested, just to rule out the possibility of bad air .
     
    Limoges Diver likes this.
  13. Limoges Diver

    Limoges Diver Single Diver

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Location: Limoges, ON
    85
    0
    0
    This is not a case of imagination: I know how I felt and how I feel right now for sure. The headache when I exited the water was so debilitating, I could hardly stand.
    Right now my headache is about a 2/10, my dizziness is about a 4/10, and my neck pain is about 3/10, with Friday afternoon being 10/10 for all 3 categories.

    I will get all my gear tested, but I'm skeptical about the tank itself: I was inspected a year ago, and my incident on Tuesday was with another dive shop's tank and air.

    Does anyone know what the physiological results of breathing through a regulator that doesn't deliver enough air?

    Thanks you.
     
  14. ktomlinson

    ktomlinson Scuba Instructor

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Statenville, GA
    1,035
    161
    0
    In my OW class I got a horrible headache during a swim portion of the class...I thought it was due to exertion, so relaxed a fee minutes and then finished the class. A week or two later I got a horrible headache while working around the house, the same kind of headache that I got in my ow class. Both headaches started at the base of my neck and spread over my entire head and felt like an ice cream headache. I am on the telephone at work for hours a day and think that holding the phone on my shoulder caused the headaches. I have since switched to a headset and haven't had a problem since then. A long story to relate to you that pinched nerves and fatigued muscles can make some pretty bad headaches.
     
    Limoges Diver likes this.
  15. Limoges Diver

    Limoges Diver Single Diver

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Location: Limoges, ON
    85
    0
    0
    hmmmm - I had the same problem during my swimming portion of my first OW class, but it was blood-sugar level related: I had not eaten dinner before going to class. But the headache didn't last this long. In fact, I have never had a headache last this long...
     
  16. TSandM

    TSandM Missed and loved by many.

    # of Dives:
    Location: Woodinville, WA
    36,352
    13,489
    0
    You don't need to buy a new regulator. Virtually any regulator available today can be adjusted to breathe easily. It's just a service sort of thing. Not all regulators have a pre-dive setting and not all can be user-adjusted. Those are the kind of higher-end "bells and whistles" you get with the more expensive models.

    I agree that a CO2 headache shouldn't persist for three days. Your neck pain now makes me wonder about muscle tension headache, or cervical arthritis. Holding the head back in the horizontal diving position can be painful for some people.
     
    Limoges Diver likes this.
  17. Limoges Diver

    Limoges Diver Single Diver

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Location: Limoges, ON
    85
    0
    0
    I read the service manual for my first stage, and it said the outlet pressure must be 140 psig. So I checked the regulator, and adjusted the pressure to 140 psig (it was slightly lower). This adjustment was done several dives ago, and the pressure was tested immediately prior to my div on Friday. So delivery pressure is not the adjustment you are talking about? I still want to have gear that is less than a couple decades old: I want the warm & fuzzy feeling that I don't have to be suspicious about gear that is so important to my survival underwater.
     
  18. ktomlinson

    ktomlinson Scuba Instructor

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Statenville, GA
    1,035
    161
    0
    I believe you are referring to the pressure is in your lp hoses....cracking pressure is how hard you have to suck/breathe on the second stage in order to trigger the mechanism that gives you access to that 140psi.
     
  19. denisegg

    denisegg Indescribable! ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: South Alabama
    10,168
    498
    36
    You can give DAN a call. That is what my dive buddy did when I had an incident and it was during a holiday weekend. It was actually on July 4th last year. They were able to access the situation and give the ER doctors instruction on how to treat me. You don't even have to be a member to get their help. I now keep their number programmed into my cell phone and I'm glad that my buddy did that day. :)
     
  20. Bubbletrubble

    Bubbletrubble Regular of the Pub

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Seussville
    4,811
    867
    0
    @TSandM: Actually, on all of the regs that I'm familiar with, cracking pressure isn't affected at all by the Venturi setting (dive/pre-dive or "+"/"-") on a second stage. Put simply, the Venturi lever in the "dive" or "+" position directs airflow to create a suction behind the second stage diaphragm, which makes it easier for the demand valve to remain open. So, essentially, the Venturi lever affects closure of the demand valve...not opening, per se.

    Inappropriate sustained airflow of the second stage is encouraged by setting the Venturi lever to "dive" or "+." Switching the Venturi lever to "pre-dive" or "-" redirects airflow to minimize the suction effect. That's why reg manufacturers recommend that the second stage Venturi lever be placed in the "pre-dive"/"-" position while the diver is on the surface of the water.
    @Limoges Diver: I feel very strongly that divers should not be monkeying around with reg settings if they don't understand what they are doing. Someone who cannot distinguish the difference between cracking pressure and intermediate pressure really shouldn't be attempting to tune a reg. I recommend that you take your reg setup to a competent reg technician and ask him to check it out for you. He should be able to evaluate intermediate pressure, cracking pressure, and overall behavior of the reg (subjective breathing test). Such an inspection should only take a few minutes to do.

    It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get a medical check-up with your physician. Conditions to rule out would include various neurological and cardiovascular disorders. Ask him/her if a cardiac stress test might be useful.
     
    solensdotter and Limoges Diver like this.

Share This Page