by: Robert Korim; TDI # 1204

You have been probably taught, that the Valsalva maneuver is a technique to equalize pressure in the middle ear cavity. It was described as intense breath out while pressing the nasal wings. The air flows from the lungs up through oral cavity to the Eustachian tube and then to the middle ear cavity. Increased pressure on the inside eardrum would align the balance of the surrounding water pressure. This maneuver, however, incorrectly refers to Valsalva.

Antonio Maria Valsalva (an Italian anatomist living in the 17th century) described the power exhale against a closed gap between the vocal cords in a similar manner as a sneeze. Of course this does not balance the pressure in your ears. Both techniques increase the pressure in the chest cavity, and they limit the return of blood to the heart. They are often used to study cardiovascular effects. It is more likely that our “diving maneuver” was first described by English physician Joseph Toynbee (1815-1866).

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