Nerve damage from a hip harness (self-suspension bondage)

Ahhh, so here I was, getting a bit cocky after years of doing quite strenuous, dynamic suspensions in hip harnesses… and kinda thinking that my lower limbs were impervious to nerve damage… and then the leash of reality comes and yanks me back!

I’m mostly writing this up because I haven’t personally heard of this specific injury, so I wanted to put the information out there as a data point. Lest anyone get the wrong idea, I firmly believe that hip harnesses are relatively low risk ties, and this writing shouldn’t be misconstrued as any sort of condemnation of hip harnesses.

I was doing a self-suspension at home, with Stefanos spotting me. I went through quite a variety of different ties over the course of close to 2 hours (including floorwork). FWIW, I’ve been doing a lot of self tying lately (3-4 times a week, for up to a couple hours at a time), so I suspect there is a cumulative aspect to this injury.

I was up in a version of a swiss seat harness- one that I’ve probably done on myself over 100 times. I tie it in one wrap with a doubled piece of 8mm nylon (it’s the exact one I tie in this video at 1:30).

I was probably up in it for 15 minutes or so, moving around a lot. I tried to go into this position:


… which is one that is always intense and causes the hip harness to dig in quite aggressively, but usually I can tolerate it pretty well. I felt a sudden stab of pain where the rope was digging in under my left iliac crest as I was moving my feet towards my head. I stopped the motion and moved upright… and as soon as I moved, the pain was gone. I assessed my body (I even felt for numbness on my outer thigh, because LFCN injuries are the ones I’ve heard of happening in this way) and I felt fine, so I continued on for probably about 5 more minutes, then came down.

As I was untying, I noticed an area of numbness on my left inner groin, and a mild burning sensation. Being an anatomy geek, I traced out exactly where the numbness was, and went googling- I am quite numb in exactly the area innervated by the iliohypogastric nerve, and mildly numb in the area innervated by the ilioinguinal nerve (only on my left side):


…which makes sense if you look at the path of the nerves, which do run quite close to each other:


This happened yesterday, about 24 hours ago, and it’s still pretty numb today. Not terribly noticeable- there’s a mild background burning that I feel if I think about it (would rate less than 1 on a pain scale of 0-10)… VERY annoying when I shave, as the sensation is super weird/numb/not right.

Lessons I’m taking away:

  • I am not invincible to nerve damage from hip harnesses- boooo!
  • If I feel that particular sharp stabbing pain again, I will stop completely (even if I can’t find anything wrong) to rest and assess my body. I’m not sure it would have made any difference to come down 5 minutes earlier (I was doing totally different movements/positions) but in the same situation again I would err on the side of caution and come down.
  • I always tie more substantial hip harnesses on other people, because I know that it’s riskier with less rope- I’m much more willing to take risks with my own body than other people’s. However… most of the time even on myself, I should use more than one wrap for hip harnesses, so that they are more substantial and provide more support, lessening the chance of very focal compression like what happened here. Even though I like tying a quick hip harness with a short rope… see point 1 above… boooooo :-(.


This article also lives on my self-suspension web site!