How The Valsalva Maneuver Works

By Richard N. Fogoros, MD Updated July 03, 2019

Medically reviewed by a board-certified physician

The Valsalva maneuver is a technique which anybody can learn, that has several practical uses in medicine and in everyday life. The Valsalva maneuver is useful for transiently increasing the tone of the vagus nerve, and also for transiently increasing the pressure in the throat, sinuses, and inner ears. It turns out these two effects can sometimes be quite helpful.

For instance, cardiologists often recommend the Valsalva maneuver to their patients who have episodes of certain kinds of supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), as a means of stopping the arrhythmia when it occurs. The Valsalva maneuver is also a useful technique for scuba divers, people with hiccups — and many others.

How the Valsalva Maneuver Is Done

The Valsalva maneuver (which is named after A.M. Valsalva, who first described it 300 years ago as a way to expel pus out of the middle ear), is performed by attempting to exhale forcefully against a closed airway. This can be done by keeping your mouth closed and pinching your nose while trying to exhale forcefully. This maneuver immediately increases pressure in the sinuses and inner ears.

The maneuver must be maintained a little longer in order to also achieve an increase in vagal tone, at least for 10-15 seconds…

Read On: How the Valsalva Maneuver Works


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