Tensing Muscles Could Prevent Certain Falls

Published on 20 August, 2022

Fainting, or syncope, is common, and most people recover completely within a few seconds to minutes. However, the fall carries a risk of injury and could result in fractures or bleeds within the head, especially if it happens frequently.

Syncope / Fainting – Causes

The cause of fainting or syncope can vary from non-serious causes to severe illnesses such as a heart disease. At the outset, a complete checkup and possibly tests will be needed to identify any serious causes of the fainting. Once these are ruled out, it is possible that the patient may be diagnosed with a condition called vasovagal syncope or orthostatic hypotension. The fainting in these situations often follows stimuli such as an emotional stimulus, the sight of blood or standing for a long time. The episodes are preceded by symptoms such as lightheadedness, weakness, nausea, flushing, sweating and blurred vision.

Syncope / Fainting – Muscle Tensing Maneuvers

When an individual experiences symptoms that could precede a fall, first and foremost, she/he should be placed in a safe position such as sitting or lying down. Following this, the patient can be asked to do simple maneuvers to contract certain muscles. These could increase the blood pressure and therefore the blood flow to the brain. However, it must be remembered that these maneuvers may not always prevent the impending fall.

Fainting / Syncope – Lower Body versus Upper Body Maneuvers

When possible, maneuvers to contract the muscles of the lower body should be preferred to those that contract the muscles of the upper body. These could include crossing of the legs with tensing of the leg, abdominal, and buttock muscles or squatting in a sitting position with lower-body and abdominal muscle tensing.

Maneuvers that contract the muscles of upper body can be performed if contracting of the lower body is not convenient. These maneuvers may including gripping the opposite hands with fingers and pulling the arms in opposing directions, or clenching of fists with or without anything in the hand. The neck can also be bent forward bringing the chin to touch the chest and tightening the neck muscles.


Charlton LP et al. 2019 American Heart Association and American Red Cross Focused Update for First Aid: Presyncope: An Update to the American Heart Association and American Red Cross Guidelines for First Aid. Circulation. 2019;140:e931–e938. https://doi.org/10.1161/CIR.0000000000000730

Dockx K, Avau B, De Buck E, Vranckx P, Vandekerckhove P (2019) Physical manoeuvers as a preventive intervention to manage vasovagal syncope: A systematic review. PLoS ONE 14(2): e0212012. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0212012. Available under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)

Gampa A, Upadhyay GA. Treatment of Neurocardiogenic Syncope: From Conservative to Cutting-edge. J Innov Card Rhythm Manag. 2018 Jul 15;9(7):3221-3231. doi: 10.19102/icrm.2018.090702.

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