Overview of Valsalva test
The Valsalva test is a breathing method that can be used to help diagnose a problem with the autonomic nervous system (ANS). It can also be used to help restore a normal heart rate if your heart begins to beat too fast.
Named after the 17th-century Italian physician Antonio Maria Valsalva, the technique requires you to try to respire when your airway is blocked. A version of the Valsalva maneuver can also be used to help equilibrium the air pressure in your ears.
In addition to closing your mouth and pinching your nose, push down like you’re having a bowel movement. The maneuver causes several rapid changes in heart rate and blood pressure.
You should first try this technique under the supervision of a doctor to make sure you are doing it correctly and for a safe but effective period of time.
What is the Valsalva test used for?
This simple procedure is used for a number of reasons. Two important purposes are related to how the Valsalva maneuver affects blood pressure and heart rate.
Restore heart rate: Variations in blood pressure and heart rate as you go finished the four phases of the maneuver can often restore a normal heart rhythm when your heart is experiencing tachycardia.
Tachycardia is an abnormally fast heart rate. If a Valsalva test doesn’t work, your doctor may recommend that you try it a second time.
Diagnosis of an ANS disorder: In addition to treating an abnormal heart rate, the Valsalva maneuver can also be secondhand to help diagnose an ANS disorder. The pattern of your heart rate and the changes in blood pressure through the various phases of the Valsalva test can help your doctor identify problems with your sympathetic and parasympathetic nerve functions.
If you have a condition called Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), you will experience significant increases in your blood pressure during phases two and four.
POTS is a condition in which your blood pressure drops dramatically when you stand up after sitting or lying down. It can be a very serious health problem that causes fainting, falls, and other complications.
Treat plugged ears: The Valsalva test can also help with comparatively harmless problems, such as air temporarily blocking the Eustachian tube in the inner ear. You may have experienced this sensation while taking off or landing in an airplane.
The Valsalva test can repeatedly be used to assistance your ears “open” by forcing air through your sinuses and the eustachian tube.
When to perform the Valsalva test
Your physician will likely propose the Valsalva test if you have a type of rapid heart rate called supraventricular tachycardia. This is a problem with your heart’s electrical signals. It is usually not serious unless you have other heart problems.
Valsalva test procedure
Your doctor will tell you that:
- Sit or lie down
- Take a profound breath and hold your breath
- Pinch your nose to close it
- Close your mouth
- Squat down hard, like you’re trying to go to the bathroom
- As you push down, breathe out like you’re trying to blow up a balloon
- Straining hard for about 10 to 15 seconds
- If it doesn’t work, wait at least a minute before trying again
What does the Valsalva test do?
This special technique relaxes your heart’s electrical system. This happens in four phases:
Phase One: When you start blowing, the pressure increases in the chest and abdomen. That causes the blood to flow from your heart and down your arms. This causes your blood pressure to go up for a small time.
Phase Two: Your heart pumps less blood with each beat as you push yourself. Your blood pressure constantly returns to normal.
Phase three: When you relax at the end of this move, your heart rate increases.
Phase Four: This is the recovery period. The blood returns to your heart. Ideally, your blood pressure rises but then returns to baseline as your heart rate returns to normal.
Uses of Valsalva test
Physicians can use the Valsalva test to treat persons with Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT).
- SVT is a fast heart rate that usually exceeds 100 beats per minute at rest. It can cause symptoms with heart palpitations, chest pain, and shortness of breath.
- A heart rate of this haste can be dangerous because the heart cannot pump sufficient blood when it beats so fast.
- SVT often requires emergency treatment. Once rescuers have identified a person’s heart rate and strongminded that their blood pressure is stable, they can demonstrate how to perform the Valsalva maneuver.
- Rendering to a report in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the Valsalva maneuver was more effective in slowing the heart rate than other similar procedures, such as massaging the carotid sinus or applying an ice-cold towel to the face.
- A meta-analysis originates that the Valsalva maneuver can restore regular heart rate between 19.4 and 54.3 percent of the time.
- If the Valsalva maneuver does not regularize the heart rhythm, the person will need to receive electrical shocks, called cardioversion, or medications.
- These approaches can cause unpleasant side effects, such as chest pain, pressure, and redness.
The Valsalva maneuver has other uses as well. These include:
- Clearing your ears when diving or a change in altitude increases pressure
- Increased colonic pressure to induce a bowel movement
- Weightlifters also tend to perform the Valsalva test when lifting heavyweights. Some may deliberately try this technique, while others may not realize they are using it.
- It is a common belief that using the Valsalva test when lifting heavy weights can provide lift and trunk stabilization.
Risks and considerations
The main side effect of the Valsalva test is hypotension, which is an unexpected and persistent decrease in blood pressure.
People performing the maneuver may also feel dizzy or experience syncope, which is a brief loss of consciousness.
Preparation for Valsalva test
The steps of the Valsalva test are:
- Pinch your nose shut
- Close your mouth
- Exhale forcefully
- Lower, similar to having a bowel movement
- Hold this for 10 to 15 seconds