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 FAQs Natural Therapies: The Vagal Maneuver

Complementary & Natural Therapies

Complementary & Natural Therapies

“What is the ‘vagal maneuver’? I’ve heard it might help me during an A-Fib episode. What is it and how is it done? Is it safe?”

Have you ever had the hiccups and held your breath for at least 5 seconds trying to get rid of them? That’s called the Valsalva maneuver (one type of vagal maneuver). You also use the maneuver while lifting, coughing, belching. and going to the bathroom.

What if you tried it for an A-Fib attack? Research has found the Valsalva maneuver, if performed properly, is safe and about 25% of time is effective in slowing many types of SVT such as atrial fibrillation. (But for some patients the arrhythmia returned shortly after.)

Hans Larsen of the A-Fib Report recommends the Valsalva Maneuver for Lone A-Fib patients not on antiarrhythmic drugs. He describes it this way: “Sit down and bend forward at the waist―hold your breath and strain as if blowing up a balloon.” Hold the maneuver for five seconds or so.

This maneuver greatly increases pressures inside the chest cavity―which stimulates the vagus nerve and increases vagal tone. (The vagus nerve is one of 12 cranial nerves and extends from the brain stem to the abdomen, via various organs including the heart, esophagus and lungs.)

Judi Coffey has written me that repeated deep belching will get her out of an A-Fib attack. (You can contact her at: Luckers567(at)

Doug Hartz writes, “The only thing that has several times gotten me out of A-Fib (induced by strenuous exercise) was the Valsalva maneuver—done immediately after onset and repeated several times if necessary. It doesn’t always work if delayed.” (You can contact Doug at hartzchartz(at)

So try the Valsalva maneuver—and try it several times—since it only works about 25% of the time. (After all, it’s cheap and ‘natural’). It just might work for you!

References for this Article
Lim SH, et al. Comparison of treatment of supraventricular tachycardia by Valsalva maneuver and carotid sinus massage. Ann Emerg Med. January 1998;31:30–5

Larsen, H. The AFIB Report,

Return to FAQ Natural Therapies
Last updated: Monday, June 18, 2018

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