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Safety First: Be Prepared!
Bondage is like a sport; the risk of injury is real. And just like with any physical activity, knowledge and good technique can help mitigate those risks.
Safety shears and safety hooks are great for cutting rope in case of emergency. Keeping them directly on you is even more safe. Regular knives or kitchen scissors are not as good in case of emergency as there is a risk of stabbing your partner while cutting something else.
The best way to be prepared for an incident is to visualize what you are about to do, and figure out what could happen. For example, what would you do if you or your partner faints? What would you do if one of your hands got injured?
Bonus: Taking a regular first aid program is a good way to get training for incident response and will cover many common injuries.
The most common and important physical risk we face with rope bondage is nerve compression. This occurs when a nerve receives an extensive pressure that damages it and prevents it from functioning normally even after the pressure is removed. The pressure can come from the rope itself, or indirectly from a contracted or inflamed muscle, or an external object that pushed against the nerve. It is often painless or may create a light tingle, which is why this risk is so tricky to manage.
There are three categories of nerves: motor, sensory and mixed nerves. The consequence of sensory nerve damage is a numb patch, and the consequence of a motor nerve compression is weakness or inability to move the limb activated by that nerve (ex: weak grip or wrist drop).
Nerve damage risks can only be mitigated. Nerves run everywhere in the body and each person has slightly different nerve paths. You can get nerve damage from bad sleeping posture, exercising, or by hitting your elbow.
The faster you catch the problem, the faster it will heal.
How to mitigate the risks:
- Tie loosely and/or away from joints (wrist, elbows, knees, ankles),
- Avoid bulky knots that dig into the skin, especially into more exposed nerves,
- Be conscious that hard surfaces can press knots into nerves,
- Monitor motor function of hands during ties that involve the upper limbs (ability to open and close hands),
- Caress your partner or touch yourself during a tie to identify the first signs of numbness,
Damage done to nerves are cumulative; something that was ok the first time might not be ok after a few repeats. Nerves takes a long time to heal, contact a medical professional for any lasting weakness or numbness.
Day 50 is dedicated to the anatomy of the body, we will go deeper into the nerves that are prone to injury, and we’ll discuss the most common injuries specific to each tie along the way.
Risks with High Consequences
…but easy to avoid
Each year, people die from bondage. Generally they die because they were alone, or they restricted breathing, often both at the same time.
How to mitigate this risk:
- Avoid rope around the front or side of the neck,
- Make sure you can quickly untie anything that interferes with breathing such as tight chest compression or body positions that restrict breathing, such as back bends and forward bends (condition named positional asphyxia). Corsets and gags also contribute to restrict air flow,
- Have someone to check on you/supervise if you want to self-tie (known as spotter),
- Stay with your bound partner at all times (but it’s ok to make them believe you are gone 🙂
When the hands are tied, one may no longer be able to protect themselves in case of a fall. The person tying can also trip with the scary scenario of someone tied with their partner unconscious from a fall.
How to mitigate this risk:
- Tie kneeling or sitting,
- Stay close to a bound person standing up, or attach them to a hardpoint,
- Be conscious of tripping hazards (mats, rope bag, other people, clutter, etc.),
- Secure the ties to prevent rolling off the bed, tipping the chair etc.,
- Make sure you all eat well and keep yourself hydrated,
- Avoid locking knees when standing to keep good blood circulation in the legs,
Excitement has a way of making people overlook the dangers of what they are undertaking. Tying people in dangerous places, hanging them from the ceiling with questionable techniques or equipment, assuming someone’s consent… It is easy to let your excitement overtake a situation. Mistakes that could have been easily avoided with better planning often pile up.
The desire to suspend a willing partner, for example, has increased risks. Simply anchoring a partner to a hard point can increase potential problems. Both full and partial suspensions can increase the potential for nerve damage, because the person’s weight adds to the the pressure of the rope on the body. Equipment failure – the rope breaking, the hard point becoming unstable, or even a rug slipping – can result in falls or other unexpected consequences.
An interesting study showed that people are more likely to take risks when aroused. It’s part of being human. When attempting something new, do your research; and stay aware when doing things you are experienced with, maybe you were lucky in the past.
Risks with High Occurrence
… Common but easy to mitigate
It is very common for circulation problems to occur during bondage. The most common consequence is a sensation of pins and needles in the affected limbs. These usually disappear within a few minutes after removing the cause of the blood flow restriction.
Medical studies have shown that a tourniquet can cause damage after 30 minutes, and interfering with blood circulation for a shorter amount of time is a lower risk. The biggest problem is that the numbness caused by poor blood circulation makes it harder to monitor nerve problems.
Some people with light skin will turn blue very quickly, even with very little restriction of circulation,. People who have darker skin may turn even darker but the skin of the palms may become lighter or might turn blueish purple as well. Skin coloration is generally not a good indicator of circulation interference because it’s so different from person to person, but it can’t hurt to keep an eye on it. For most people, grey limb coloration is something you want to avoid.
Rope marks and burns
When a rope hugs a person’s skin, mark will appear. Negotiate where you can apply rope beforehand – face, neck and forearms are often a problematic location for ropemarks.
There are different degrees of rope marks and each person is different in how long these will last. When rope is dragged quickly along the skin, it can actually burn, including swelling and bleeding. This is easy to avoid by pulling the rope gently, or placing a hand between the skin and the rope when pulling fast.
Superficial hemorrhage is also something that can happen, even if it’s less common. When circulation is restricted between two points, the skin between these can remain blue like a bruises. These are generally painless and disappear within a few days.
Petechiae is another common type of marks; , these are tiny red dots on the skin that look a bit like freckles. It often appears on a person’s face after hanging upside down for too long.
More Safety Ressources
- Topologist’s Safety Writting
- Esinem’s safety video Part 1, Part 2
- Remedial Ropes – Introduction and Basic Risks
- Tessin Doyama: On Kinbaku Safety – Kinbaku Today
Next: Rope Vocabulary