The Recovery Position

The Recovery Position

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The Recovery Position is a life-saving procedure and an important part of first aid as it is the treatment for any patient who is unconscious but still breathing.

The recovery position is the best way to protect a patients airway, keeping it clear and open. It prevents vomit or fluid choking the patient and being aspirated into the lungs.

If the patient is found laying on their side or on their back then not all of the following steps will be needed to put them into the recovery position.

First, it is recommended in workplace approved Training that you should check the patients pockets and person for any large or bulky items that may cause injury. Objects such as keys, phone and glasses should be removed.

In First Aid Classes, the procedure is taught from the perspective that the patient is found on their back. You must first ensure both of the patients legs are straight.

Kneel by the side of the patient, and place the arm closest to you at a right angle to the body, bending the elbow and ensuring the hand is palm upwards. The arm furthest away from you should be brought across the patients body and hold the back of the patients hand against their cheek. This will support the patients head when they have been rolled over and will aid in maintaining the airway.

The next step, using your other hand, is to lift the leg farthest from you so the patients knee is bent and their foot is flat on the floor. You can then use this leg as a lever to gently roll the patient towards you and onto their side.

With the patient on their side, First Aid Classes teach you to adjust the leg to put the hip and knee bent at right angles. This will stabilise the patient and hold them in this position, and prevent them from rolling forward.

Now the patient is in the recovery position, workplace approved Training states you must reassess the airway. Ensure that the patients head is tilted upward and the airway is open. Continue to monitor the patients responsiveness, pulse and breathing until the emergency services arrive.

It is good practice to rotate the patient onto their opposite side if they have to be left in the recovery position for longer than 30 minutes in order to protect their pressure areas. Only do this if their injuries allow it.


It is important to remember that spinal injuries need special treatment. If the patient has a suspected spinal injury you must be careful not to do any more damage to their back. Therefore only move the patient if they are in danger of further injury or if their airway is compromised and they are vomiting or choking.

You can still place the patient into the recovery position but you must ensure that the spine is kept straight.

The Recovery Position
The Recovery Position

Ideally, the patient should be log-rolled which involves the help of four or more people in total. However, there is a procedure in the workplace approved First Aid manual where in emergency situations two people can put them into the recovery position.

One person should be at the head, and another at the patients side. Ensure that the patients head is supported and held steady whilst the patient is rolled. Work together to ensure that the patients spine is kept straight at all times.

Nonetheless, the more people who can help the better, as the more people there are assisting, the more likely the patients spine can be kept in line and this prevents further injury.

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