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Valsalva Manoeuvre

Is Valsalva manoeuvre safe for ears?

Definition of the Valsalva technique

The Valsalva manoeuvre is a breathing technique that starts with taking a deep breath and is followed by a forceful exhalation while keeping a closed glottis for approximately 10 seconds. This technique, initially invented by Arabs in the 11th century, is used to address various health concerns. It can help alleviate symtoms like plugged-up ears and irregular heartbeat (also known as supraventricular tachycardia or SVT). The Valsalva manoeuvre is a non-invasive solution for minor medical issues

Origins and evolution

The Valsalva manoeuvre was named after Antonio Maria Valsalva, a 17th-century Italian physician who published it in 1704 in his book 'De Aure Humana Tractatus.' Initially described as a technique to push air into the middle ear, this manoeuvre has since evolved into non-invasive yet effective breathing technique that can be used to treat a range of health conditions.

When should the Valsalva manoeuvre be used?

The Valsalva manoeuvre serves multiple purposes. It can be used to equalise pressure in the ear, alleviate hiccups and counteract tachycardia. The manoeuvre can be particularly beneficial when there is a rapid change in pressure, particularly when diving (in the descent phase) or flying. To normalise ear pressure, swallowing repeatedly is reccomended in order to open the Eustachian tubes. When using this technique to treat tachycardia, the inital intrathoracic compression is followed by a recovery period that decreases the heart rate.

When should the Valsalva manoeuvre be avoided?

The Valsalva manoeuvre can impact blood pressure, heart rate, and intraocular pressure. Individuals who suffer from retinopathy, intraocular lens implants, heart valve diseases, coronary artery diseases, and congenital heart diseases may be particularly vulnerable to its effects. As a result, before performing this manoeuvre, it is important to consult a healthcare professional familiar with your medical history. While it can offer relieve in some cases, it can also exacerbate existing health issues.

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How to perform the Valsalva manoeuvre properly

To perform the manoeuvre, take a deep breath, pinch the bridge of the nose, exhale forcefully with your mouth closed, and contract the muscles of your abdomen. Although this tecnique is known for its versatility, it is important to note that there are several variations of the Valsalva manoeuvre, each serving a dinstinct purpose.

The Modified Valsalva manoeuvre

The modified Valsalva manoeuvre is a tactical adjustment. To perform the modified Valsalva manoeuvre, lie on your back, perform the traditional Valsalva manoeuvre as indicated above, then immediately elevate your legs after the straining phase, in order to redirect more blood back to the heart. This modification is meant to enhance the effectiveness of the manoeuvre in emergent SVT cases.

Reverse Valsalva manoeuvre

Unlike the traditional manoeuvre, the reverse Valsalva manoeuvre focuses on breathing in and serves as an alternative method to deal with SVT. To perform this variation, sit upright, close your mouth, and pinch your nose. Inhale with enough strength to feel resistance, then open your mouth, release your nose, and resume normal breathing.

What are the benefits of Valsalva manoeuvre?

The Valsalva manoeuvre is a quick and relatively effective way to manage SVT or other health-related issues without needing to go to a hospital, or resort to special tools or medication. When diving or flying, the Valsalva manoeuvre is also great for relieving ear pressure within seconds without assistance.

Is Valsalva manoeuvre safe for ears?

Yes, the Valsalva manoeuvre is generally safe. However, exhaling too forcefully can rupture your eardrum, an area of the ear that is quite fragile and easy to damage. When executing this manoeuvre, be sure to exercise caution at all times and consult a doctor if any discomfort or concerns arise.

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