Upside Down Torture
February 4, 2007 4:22 PM   Subscribe

Losing consciousness after being hung upside down by feet? (Humanitarian Asylum / Torture Related)

How long would it take for the average individual to lose consciousness after being hung upside down by their feet? I'm working on an asylum case with a law clinic. When our client was testifying regarding his torture, the government seemed skeptical of the claim that our client was hung upside down by his feet and beaten for several hours without losing consciousness. Is there some reason that an average person would lose consciousness after hanging upside down, by their feet, for a long period of time?

Not to be gruesome, but any articles or resources you can point to that are related to forensic/medical analysis of the physical consequences of various torture techniques would be helpful. Thanks!
posted by prettyboyfloyd to Law & Government (11 answers total)
Wikipedia has something about this in its Suspension Bondage Article: "Being suspended upside down can be a very hard position to maintain as a result of the position causing the blood to rush to the head. This means that this position probably can't be maintained for any length of time and can even lead to the person blacking out."

However, this isn't attributed to any source. The people with the most practical experience in this would probably be the S/M folk. Hopefully, someone with some firsthand knowledge will stop by here and answer your question directly, but if not, that might be a reasonable avenue to persue.
posted by blenderfish at 4:42 PM on February 4, 2007

Gravity inversion techniques
posted by hortense at 4:47 PM on February 4, 2007

Sounds like a myth to bust... paging asavage...
posted by phrontist at 6:58 PM on February 4, 2007

The people with the most practical experience in this would probably be the S/M folk.

I'm an S/M folk and I'm going to advise a bit of caution here. First, I should say that suspension is not a terribly common practice, if only because it requires equipment/facilities that most people lack. But If you find a kinky person who claims knowledge in this area and says, for example, "You can safely hang a person upside down for one hour," they may or may not know what the heck they're talking about. It's taking some self control to not open up a rant on the issue, but you should be aware that within the BDSM community you can find lots of people who like to speak with authority on topics (such as bondage, breath play, electricity play, piercing, etc.) about which they know little or nothing. Even in cases where the individual has some relevant experience, their opinions and information may be hotly disputed. I base this assessment on five+ years of attending BDSM demonstrations and "classes.'

That said, there probably are people out there who've done their share of suspension bondage and actually could tell you what 's what. The problem is that it's going to be pretty much impossible for you to tell those people from the egomaniac charlatans. If you do end up talking to a kinky person who claims relevant knowledge, you should ask for lots of specifics:

How many times have you put someone in inverted bondage?

How long, typically, did you leave them there?

Were they overweight, small, large, male, female, etc?

Did you hang them by their ankles or did you use a body harness?

Did you use ropes, straps, or something else?

Did you make the harness/bondage apparatus yourself or did you buy it someplace or get it from someone?

Did you use any kind of padding?

This is where I would begin my questioning. And if the guy/woman tells you that s/he learned these techniques from the CIA or Special Forces, just hang up the fucking phone right then and there.

You might consider emailing the folks at this website. You can verify that they've done lots of very intense bondage over the years, including suspension, so there's a good chance that whatever they tell you is based on personal experience. They might even be able to point you towards some other resources.

I suspect, actually, that the people you're going to end up talking to are not going to be BDSMers but, rather, those Yoga types who hang upside down or someone like that. However, if you're hitting dead ends and you want to explore the BDSM angle a bit more, email me and I might be able to come up with someone who can advise you. Best of luck and keep up the good works.
posted by Clay201 at 8:17 PM on February 4, 2007

However, this isn't attributed to any source.

It might be possible that they are referring to suspension trauma (or, harness hang syndrome) [link] and [link]
posted by squeak at 8:30 PM on February 4, 2007

the US Army Physical Fitness School has decided to incorporate Inversion into its world-wide physical training doctrine. The Army Rangers at Fort Benning, GA use gravity boots to invert, "reversing" the damage done to their bodies during their demanding training. To them, Inversion represents the "Quiet Side of Fitness"-a restorative fitness tool to help decompress and mobilize...
posted by hortense at 9:14 PM on February 4, 2007

This is only vaguely related, but a friend told me recently that a surefire way to put yourself to sleep is to put your legs up against a wall. She said that she had lain awake for hours and within ten minutes of putting her legs up on a wall she couldn't keep her eyes open. She learned this from a yoga instructor, so I'm going to 2nd the assertion that they would be a smart group to ask.
posted by crinklebat at 9:18 PM on February 4, 2007

call a chiropractor, I think they recommend those people to hang upside down for their backs, in these funny rack things I've seen. They would know the health risks that would go with it.
posted by magikker at 9:55 PM on February 4, 2007

Crinklebat: it's very relaxing from a physical perspective, because it takes weight off the parts that usually carry it, but it's not a surefire way of going to sleep. I can sit for hours like that (happily - I'm not trying to go to sleep when I do).
posted by spaceman_spiff at 11:52 PM on February 4, 2007

Let me start by saying that I'm not recommending that anyone hang upside down nor saying that it is always, or indeed ever, safe to do so.

However, when docs have people who come in with syncope (fainting), sometimes we try to reproduce this by putting folks on a tilt table. We strap folks to a table and then elevate them upright - head up - and keep them that way. Something like 10% of folks will faint if kept in this forced head-up position for 20 minutes; a very few will have a cardiac arrhythmia.

Contrariwise, if a medical intern or resident is concerned that blood perfusion to the brain is inadequate, we are taught to add "reverse Trendelenburg" to the bed position. This is a fancy way of saying lowering the head of a flat bed. I have seen several patients with really sketchy perfusion recover consciousness owing to this maneuver.

Really healthy, cardiologically fit folks often can maintain perfusion in any position, and I think in terms of what I know about physiology, putting someone head down would in general be protective against syncope, not the opposite. So I am not sure what your interlocutor was getting at.

I don't know about the effects of being beaten for several hours.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:56 PM on February 4, 2007

I don't know about the effects of being beaten for several hours.
Besides getting awfully bruised?
(sorry, couldn't resist it.)
posted by Memo at 1:05 AM on February 5, 2007

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