The Recovery Position: What It Is, and Why Everyone Should Know About It

The Recovery Position: What It Is, and Why Everyone Should Know About It on

The recovery position guards against a restricted airway

Would you know what to do if an individual had been rendered first aid, but was still unconscious?

You’re waiting for emergency professionals to arrive and take over. Is there anything else you should do? There often is, and it’s called the recovery position. Here’s what you need to know:

When to use the recovery position

Unconscious and breathing – these are the two conditions which indicate it’s time to take this next step in providing first aid. The recovery position keeps an individual’s airway clean and open, ensuring that the tongue or fluid won’t make them choke. This is a real and serious possibility.

When an individual is unconscious and lying on their back, the jaw tends to slump, which allows the tongue to fall to the back of the throat. This could block the airway and make it impossible to breathe. Likewise, someone may vomit while they’re unconscious, also blocking their airway.

There are 7 steps to placing someone in the recovery position. While that might seem like a lot of steps to remember, they all make sense in getting someone into the position you see in the photo above.

  1. If you’ve administered CPR, the person will already be on their back. Otherwise, move them to this position. Then, kneel on the floor next to them.
  2. Place the arm nearest to you at a right angle to their body. Angle their hand upwards, towards their head.
  3. Tuck the other hand under the side of their head. The palm of this hand should be facing down so that the back of their hand is touching their cheek.
  4. Now, bend the knee farthest from you as close to a right angle as possible.
  5. Carefully roll them onto their side. Use the bent knee to help you with this.
  6. You’ll see why you started by positioning their arms first. The top arm will support their head, while the bottom arm will keep them from rolling over too far.
  7. You’ve successfully maneuvered this person into the recovery position – but your job isn’t done yet. Now, you’ll want to open their airway by positioning their head to assist with breathing. Gently tilt their head back and lift their chin. Check to see that nothing has blocked the airway.

When NOT to use the recovery position

Moving someone into the recovery position is dangerous and may cause further harm if you have any reason to believe they’ve suffered a spinal injury. It’s best not to try to move them at all until emergency professionals arrive to assess the situation.

It’s still important, however, to open their airway. Remember that you want to prevent any movement to their neck while doing this. Put your hands on either side of their head. Then gently lift their jaw with just your fingertips.

It’s best to receive professional training to apply for the recovery position correctly. When it’s done right, it can save a person from death or lasting injury due to a restricted airway.

One Beat CPR + AED offers professional, accessible, American Heart Association-approved CPR coursesFor more information or to find a training facility near you, connect with us online or give us a call at 954.321.5305.