Valsalva Maneuver

What is Valsalva maneuver?

The Valsalva maneuver remains a popular medical topic named after 17th-century Italian physician Antonio Maria Valsalva while clearing the pus out of the ears.

People may perform the maneuver regularly without knowing it. It is generally done automatically and very briefly, in coughing and sneezing; and for longer periods in bodily functions like defecation and parturition; or, more deliberately, in heavy lifting; in various sports; and in the blowing of wind instruments.

In this write-up, you will learn what is Valsalva Maneuver, its phases, and how to do it correctly.

What is Valsalva Maneuver

The Valsalva maneuver is a breathing technique which requires a forceful exhalation against a closed airway with closed glottis closing one’s mouth and pinching nose shut. It elevates the chest pressure and stimulates the vagus nerve.

Follow the steps to do it correctly

  1. Inhale deeply
  2. Pinch your nose and mouth closed
  3. Hold on the breath and bear down as if like a bowel movement
  4. Exhale out
  5. Do it for 10 to 15 seconds.

The Valsalva maneuver can be done sitting or lying down. There are four phases of Valsalva Maneuver;

Phase one

Blowing air against closed airways as you bear down causes the pressure in your chest to increase. That’s because blood is being forced out of your heart to your limbs and the rest of your body. This first phase causes a temporary spike in your blood pressure.

Phase two

The second phase causes a steady drop in blood pressure as a limited amount of blood in the veins returns to the heart. When the brain senses this change, the parasympathetic nervous system, the part of the ANS that helps slow the heart rate, releases norepinephrine.

Norepinephrine is a chemical that increases the rate and force of each heart contraction. It’s part of the body’s “fight-or-flight” response.

Phase three

At the end of the maneuver, you relax and your blood pressure falls for a few moments. This is the third phase.

Phase four

Soon, blood starts rushing back to the heart. After a few heartbeats, blood flow should be back to normal, and your blood pressure will rise because your blood vessels are still constricted. The blood pressure increase ideally causes the heart rate to come back to normal. That’s phase four.

Toilet Strain

Heart attacks which occur during defecation are, in many cases, the result of intensive and repeated Valsalva Maneuvers. It is needed for emptying the bowels in sitting position.

Read Stroke or heart attack in the toilet is most common

Such excessive strain during defecation adversely affects the cardiovascular system. Results in syncope or death. Syncope is a temporary loss of consciousness usually related to insufficient blood flow to the heart.

The Valsalva Maneuver may cause a large spike in blood pressure. During the process, the blood flow to muscles increases while the blood flows back to heart slows down. Though this is momentary, the blood pressure raises several times. But it may cause blood vessel damage or sometimes stroke.

Related Heart attack in the early morning

Our next write up will focus on the application of Valsalva Maneuver in restoring heart rhythm, the autonomic nervous system disorder, clearing the clogged ears, and also increasing colonic pressure to induce a bowel movement.

[ Reference: Valsalva Maneuver? ]

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