Valsalva Maneuver

Valsalva maneuver is used to slow the heart when it is beating in a supraventricular tachycardia (SVT). This set of physical maneuvers can trigger a relaxation reflex in the heart's electrical system. This slows down the heart rate and the speed at which the heart's electrical signals travel down special pathways. If an SVT is using some of the heart's normal electrical pathways, these maneuvers may slow or stop the abnormal heart rhythm right away. 

If you have another episode of SVT that does not stop within a few minutes of lying down, you may try the Valsalva maneuver:

  • Sit or lie down.

  • Take a deep breath and hold it.

  • Now bear down hard with your stomach muscles, as if you were trying to have a bowel movement.

  • Strain hard and hold the strain for 10 to 15 seconds. The harder you strain, the more likely the maneuver may work.

  • If this doesn’t stop your symptoms, wait for at least 1 minute and try a second time.

You may also try this maneuver by lying down and putting your legs up, such as on a chair. This may make it more likely for you to stop the SVT.

What to do next

If this procedure does stop your episode of SVT, call your healthcare provider and let him or her know what happened.

If this procedure does not stop your SVT and the palpitations continue for more than 20 minutes, you may need to go to the emergency department for treatment.

Don't go to your healthcare provider’s office or to a clinic instead of the ER. These places will not be able to give you all the testing and treatment needed for this condition.

Even if symptoms are mild, don’t drive yourself to the ER. Have someone else drive you.

Call 911

Call 911 if your symptoms are severe. This is the fastest and safest way to get to the ER, because paramedics can start treatment on the way to the hospital. 

Call 911, or seek medical attention right away if you have any of these symptoms along with the palpitations:

  • Pain in your chest, shoulder, arm, neck, or upper back

  • Shortness of breath

  • Weakness

  • Feeling faint or lightheaded

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