Oxygen is used by every cell in the body to create energy. When the oxygen levels in the blood dip too low, it can have life-threatening consequences. One of the hallmarks of severe lung disease is low blood oxygen saturation and this has proven to be one of the most common and serious complications of COVID-19. Until recently, little was done to address low oxygen saturation in conventional practice unless it was severe enough to require intubation and mechanical ventilation.
Front line medical workers, with the support of current research studies, have found that a simple change in posture can have outstanding results. Many people can improve their blood oxygen levels by proning, or in other words, lying on their stomach. Proning can both stave off the need for intubation and, when necessary, make mechanical ventilation more effective.
How Proning Works
When you take a breath in, air flows into your lungs. Oxygen streams into your blood and, in turn, carbon dioxide (CO2) is released on your exhale. When all is well, the rhythmical exchange of oxygen in and CO2 out is as constant and automatic as the ocean tide. In respiratory diseases, like COPD and pneumonia, taking a deep breath may or may not feel challenging, but our ability to absorb the oxygen from our breath can become inhibited. This is particularly true for many COVID-19 patients.
Proning has a long history of use in osteopathic medicine to support lung related conditions. Evidence suggests that it works by reducing the pressure on the backside of the lungs which helps them get more oxygen, improves gas exchange, and helps to prevent collapse.
Who Should Try It
Anyone with respiratory symptoms like cough, difficulty catching your breath, wheezing, or breathing faster than 20 times a minute can try this technique. If you have these or any other respiratory symptoms, please consult with your medical provider to make sure these are the right recommendations for you.
Instructions for Self Proning
Proning can be as simple as lying on your stomach or it can be done with pillows to help accentuate the posture and provide comfort for your head and neck. Check out the video below for detailed instructions.
You can lie in the prone position as often and for as long as it feels comfortable including throughout the night. Studies have shown that the longer you can remain prone, the better the outcome. Try using a pulse oximeter to track your oxygen saturation before, during, and after proning to get an idea of what works best for you.
Did you try proning? How did it work for you? Let us know in the comments!