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Getting Headaches While Diving

Discussion in 'Diving Medicine' started by Scottsfire, Jul 1, 2020.

  1. Duke Dive Medicine

    Duke Dive Medicine ScubaBoard Supporter Staff Member ScubaBoard Supporter

    Good morning @Scottsfire ,

    Not much to add to the conversation here. Hypercapnia is a possibility as others have suggested; @Doc also mentioned sinus barotrauma, both of which I think should be considered. If the headaches are localized, i.e. she can point to where it hurts and that area corresponds to the location of a sinus, it's more likely sinus barotrauma. She wouldn't necessarily feel anything before it happened. If the headaches are more generalized, I would lean more toward CO2 retention, aka hypercapnia. Others have offered sound advice on proper breathing under water; other factors in hypercapnia are external breathing resistance (which could be increased by a regulator that's out of adjustment), gas density (a function of depth), individual VO2 max (a measure of exercise capacity), and hypercapnic ventilatory response (how a person responds to increased CO2). Here's an article on diving and CO2 that explains further.

    Best regards,
  2. JahJahwarrior

    JahJahwarrior ScubaBoard Supporter Staff Member ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: West Palm Beach, Fl
    It is unlikely to be caused to just one person if it is CO, but you did measure each tank for CO, right? This is important because it is deadly.

    Most likely it is CO2 retention. I happen to be a CO2 retainer, and I have to consciously focus on breathing pattern and depth. If I don't, I get a terrible headache. It's a generalized pain, like a tension headache, not a stabbing pain like a sinus headache. Ibuprofen helps, but it's the type of headache that leaves you feeling drained and down even if the pain is reduced--I only feel back to normal after sleeping. I hate these headaches with a passion.

    Pausing between breathes and not breathing deeply is subconscious. If you ask her, she will probably deny it.

    I would practice some breathing exercises regularly, 5 minutes of focused breathing after dinner, for example.
    When you arrive at the shop, check the tanks for CO
    Before you splash, remind her to focus on breathing regularly and deeply, and maybe remind her underwater once or twice as well.
    And see if the headaches don't go away.

    It's one of the reasons I wanted to move to rebreathers. Freedom to breathe and breathe and breathe--infact you are encouraged to keep the gas moving in order to avoid o2 spikes caused by the injected o2 not arriving at the sensors quickly enough. I get significantly less headaches on the rebreather.

    Another source of headaches is the horizontal trim and extending your neck for long dives, and on a boat, sometimes sunlight glare. You can try stretching well before a dive, and using sunglasses, and I keep ibuprofen handy so at the first sign of a headache I can try to cut it off. Not sure if that's good advice or not, please remember I am not at all a doctor, just someone who hates headaches.
    Esprise Me likes this.
  3. Scottsfire

    Scottsfire Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Breckenridge Colorado
    Wow....thanks guys! Some solid medicine here. I'm going to have her read this thread and start to dialog with her about your feedback. Ironically, she wants to be a DO trauma doc and will understand most of your comments. :) I really really appreciate all your feedback! Thank you!
    Knockneed Man and chillyinCanada like this.
  4. Ministryofgiraffes

    Ministryofgiraffes Loggerhead Turtle

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Toronto
    Please make sure you don’t leave us hanging if/when you work it out....I wonder if it’s pressure related... ‘storm front coming in’ type of deal. My wife gets headaches but not sinus issues when storms are coming in.

    I presume there is not correlation with diving on her period, but hydration would likely negate any headache issues from that.

    either way, let us know of/when you find a resolution.
    chillyinCanada likes this.
  5. Scottsfire

    Scottsfire Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Breckenridge Colorado
    Oh for sure. I appreciate yalls help :)
    chillyinCanada likes this.

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