Valsalva maneuver is a forceful attempt performed by people to open a closed airway or to exhale from a close airway.
People do maneuver by closing mouth, shutting nose with the help of pinch and exhale the air out. Sometimes doctor recommends you perform a maneuver to examine the condition of your heart or to check your ears and clear the sinuses. People ask why this technique is named as maneuver. Its reason is that it is named after a physician of the 17th century. He tells this technique to the patients with ear problems to clear the ears. This maneuver is a technique that anyone can learn, and it has several uses in medical terms as well as in everyday life. It helps increase the pressure in the throat and inner ears. It is helpful for scuba divers and for people who are facing hiccups. Maneuver increases the pressure inside the nasal cavity, and as a result, the pressure is build up in the chest.
There are five steps in performing a successful valsalva maneuver:
- Inhale and hold your breath.
- Tighten your stomach and chest muscles.
- Pinch your nose and hold this position for about 10 seconds.
- Breathe out forcefully.
- Slowly resume to normal breathing.
The result of the valsalva maneuver builds up pressure in all four chambers of the heart and in blood vessels too. It especially puts pressure on the two main blood vessels of our body. One is aorta that pumps blood to the whole body from the heart, and the other is vena cava, which takes blood back to the heart from the whole body. There are some phases of valsalva maneuvers that explain the process which takes place while performing it.
Phases of valsalva maneuvers
Following are the four phases of valsalva maneuvers:
In the first phase of valsalva maneuvers, you blow air against your closed airways. It increases pressure in your chest. You ever wonder why this pressure in chest increases. It’s because the aorta, one of the main blood vessels of our body, is full of pressure at this moment, and it forces the blood out from your heart to your whole body. It results in a minor increase in blood pressure in your body.
The amount of blood that heart pumps to the whole body in the first phase suddenly drops as a result of valsalva maneuvers. But why is no blood pumping towards the whole body? It is because the full pressure in the chest is preventing the coming back of any more blood to the chest from any part of the body. So, the little amount of blood that is left in the veins is returned to the heart. This low blood, which is supplied to the heart, results in lesser blood, which again pumps from the heart. As a result, the blood pressure falls right away. The sudden decrease in blood pressure results in an increase in your heart rate. This finally returns your blood pressure to the normal state due to valsalva maneuvers.
At this stage of the valsalva maneuvers, your normal breathing starts. You feel relax, and the pressure in your chest also decreases. At this moment, when your chest re-expands, you feel a decrease in your blood pressure.
At this phase, the blood flowed back to your heart and became in a normal flow after a few heartbeats. The lower blood pressure in phase three rises again in phase four, and your breathing gets normal.
When is valsalva maneuver used for
Since a long time ago, the valsalva maneuver used for a number of reasons. As we have studied that it can cause damage to your heart because of excess pressure, it can also have a big positive influence on the people with heart issues. Valsalva maneuver used for stabilizing the heartbeat.
A chronic heart disease known as tachycardia finds out that valsalva maneuver used for their treatment. Tachycardia is a disease in which heart rate increased a lot. This means that your heart pumps 100 times a minute. In this case, the heart has to work a lot, and severe pressure is on the heart. In this case, the valsalva maneuver used for normalizing the heart rate. If not treated properly, tachycardia may give you heart attacks and sudden death. Tachycardia occurs when the electric impulses that send signals to heart vessels have some problems, and it results in slow down the process of blood supply to the whole body and increases the heart rate. The question arises, how valsalva maneuver used for the treatment of tachycardia? The answer is, valsalva maneuver regulates those electrical signals, and as a result, the blood starts flowing normally, which finally restores the heart rate.
This seems a complex process to understand, right? Believe me. It’s not! It is simply that when electric signals that trigger the heartbeat are disturbed, valsalva maneuver is used to normalize them again. That’s all. Now it seems easy, right?
Other uses of valsalva maneuver include:
- Clearing the ears while swimming or scuba diving.
- Clearing the ears while you are in an airplane means at a high altitude.
- It also increases your colonic pressure, which helps in ease of bowel movement.
Is the valsalva maneuver dangerous?
Despite many benefits of the valsalva maneuver, a thing that strikes is that, is valsalva maneuver dangerous. The answer to this question is yes, in some cases. There are several risk factors associate with it. The question that is valsalva maneuver dangerous is easy as well as complicated in a way that some of its benefits are harm for other people with a different medical condition. Here we will explain the risks that are, in fact, an answer to the question that is valsalva maneuver dangerous. Starting from the main things, and then will explain them all one by one.
Following are the conditions, which prove valsalva maneuver dangerous:
- Effect on heart
- Effect on ears
Effect on your heart
Valsalva maneuvers affect your heart by putting unhealthy pressure on it. During the process, when pressure builds up in your chest and you try to exhale air out. Very intense pressure is applied to your heart. If you have heart disease or you are a coronary heart patient, this severe pressure on your heart is not at all healthy for you. This is the reason that people with chronic heart diseases should avoid it. And this is the answer to the people who ask, is valsalva maneuver dangerous.
Effect on your ears
Valsalva maneuver affects your ears. When you pinch your nose and blow air away from your nostrills. The pressure that builds up forces air in your tubes, which are associated with your ears. Sometimes when ears are not opening up, people apply more pressure, which in return does damage. Exhaling with a blocked nose builds up the pressure in your ear fluid, which in result may rupture your ear windows.
Valsalva blood pressure
Is the valsalva maneuver useful when you have a blood pressure issue? From now onwards, let’s call it valsalva blood pressure. Valsalva blood pressure has different stages during a valsalva maneuver. From rising high to becoming low, valsalva blood pressure than again rise a bit high. These sudden fluctuations in valsalva blood pressure are very dangerous when you are a patient oh high blood pressure.
Valsalva blood pressure has a sudden rise in the first phase of valsalva maneuver due to building in air pressure in the chest. This pressure then drops at a rapid rate when a person tries to exhale with closed nostrils. Decreasing the valsalva blood pressure at this stage is a result that no more pressure can accumulate in the chest area at that time. In the meantime, when the heartbeat starts getting normal, the pressure of blood again increases, and then it fluctuates one more time when the heartbeat is completely normal. This means that in less than 10 seconds, a person’s blood pressure fluctuates for four times.
From the heart to the whole body, the supply of blood rate fluctuates during valslava maneuver. It is a good technique to use in certain cases, but it can be deadly dangerous for high blood pressure or heart patient. So, it is good to consult your doctor before applying this technique. The doctor will tell you whether you can do it or not and also the doctor will tell you how to do it. Apply pressure, more than usual can do damage to your body, including your ears and heart. Timings for holding the breath and applying pressure is also very important because it has a direct association with your health. A doctor can guide you completely about all this.
This topic concludes with the fact that valsalva maneuver is a good technique to adopt in certain cases. But, the most important thing is that how we should apply it and who should apply it. It is better not to try it without the advice of your doctor.