How to do self-proning to improve oxygen levels? Here’s a step-by-step guide!

Fluctuating oxygen levels and shortness of breath are some of the common symptoms that corona patients can face. Most of the states are experiencing an enormous medical oxygen shortage with the rise in COVID-19 patients. However, not every corona patient suffering from breathing problems needs hospitalization. Doctors are advising patients to lie on their stomachs, commonly known as proning to enhance their oxygen levels. With the second wave of the COVID-19 making the patient's family run desperately seeking oxygen cylinders, proning can help the patient bear till hospital arrangements are done.

What is Proning?

Proning refers to the medical process of turning a patient from their back onto their stomach with safe and precise motions. People in home isolation can increase oxygen levels through this technique as recommended by the Union Health Ministry. Proning, also known as prone-positioning, has been used to improve clinical outcomes for patients suffering from Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome. It is a medically recognized exercise that aid to enhance oxygenation and breathing relief in COVID-19 patients.

If done correctly, maintaining good ventilation and timely proning can save many lives. The technique helps in improving blood circulation through tissues. It means that when more air is going in the lung, more blood will be going to the tissues by practicing this technique. Thus, prone-positioning serves as a low-cost and low-risk manoeuvre to help corona patients.

What Is the Correct Position For Proning?

  • For the COVID-19 patient on the oxygen support, turn his/her head to the right or life side and then continue support.
  • Place the pillows under the chest, head, and pelvis for adequate support. The stomach should not be compressed.
  • Change the position after every 30 minutes and use 4-5 pillows for proning. Adjust the pillows for comfort and alter pressure areas.

 Check out the video for step-by-step guide!


What Are The Benefits Of Doing Self-Proning?

  • If SPO2 goes below 94, then proning is helpful. The exercise distributes oxygen throughout the lungs more evenly.
  • Prone-positioning helps in improving ventilation and lets patients breathe effortlessly. Thus, patients need less support from the ventilator to achieve healthy oxygen levels.
  • The exercise redistributes blood and airflow consistently, which helps in improving the overall oxygenation among patients suffering from the corona.
  • Lung compression is less in the prone-positioning, which enhances the lung functioning and thus results in a better exchange of CO2 and O2.

Some might think proning like a medical cure; however, it is helpful only in some cases. Awake proning is only beneficial in cases when there is some involvement of the lungs. However, if there is excessive inflammation and fluid in the lungs, then this exercise cannot help.

When To Avoid Proning?

Patients facing COVID-19 symptoms and isolated at home can practice proning, but should not depend only on this technique. It is a measure taken so that patient gets some time until all things get arranged adequately. As per Union Government guidelines, this exercise is advisable only when the SPO2 decreases below 94 and the patient feels difficulty in breathing.

It is essential to maintain proning for the time it feels tolerable. If felt comfortable, one may prone for up to 16 hours a day, in numerous cycles. The exercise should be avoided in cases like:

  • One should avoid practising prone-positioning after meals for an hour.
  • Anyone who is suffering from major cardiac conditions should avoid proning.
  • Pregnant women should also avoid practicing this exercise.
  • People having pelvic fractures, unstable spine, femur, or deep venous thrombosis, should not do proning.
  • It is essential to keep track of any injuries or eruptions, mainly around the bony prominence.

Is There Any Risk Associated with Proning?

There are some risks associated with prone-positioning such as pressure-related skin injuries, irregular heartbeat, and airway obstruction. Some patients can also face dislodgement of the endotracheal tube, low blood pressure, and facial swelling.


Proning can help patients restore blood oxygen levels and give them time until medical attention gets arranged. The exercise can help in improving heart function in some patients, which results in proper delivery of oxygen to the body. It is recommendable that COVID-19 patients should first consult a healthcare expert or professional doctor whether prone-positioning is beneficial for them.