The recovery position 

If a person is unconscious but is breathing and has no other life-threatening conditions, they should be placed in the recovery position.

Putting someone in the recovery position will keep their airway clear and open. It also ensures that any vomit or fluid won't cause them to choke.

The video on this page shows a step-by-step guide to putting someone in the recovery position.

Or you can follow these steps:

  • with the person lying on their back, kneel on the floor at their side
  • place the arm nearest you at a right angle to their body with their hand upwards, towards the head
  • tuck their other hand under the side of their head, so that the back of their hand is touching their cheek
  • bend the knee farthest from you to a right angle
  • carefully roll the person onto their side by pulling on the bent knee
  • the top arm should be supporting the head and the bottom arm will stop you rolling them too far
  • open their airway by gently tilting their head back and lifting their chin, and check that nothing is blocking their airway
  • stay with the person and monitor their condition until help arrives

Spinal injury

If you think a person may have a spinal injury, don't attempt to move them until the emergency services reach you.

If it's necessary to open their airway, place your hands on either side of their head and gently lift their jaw with your fingertips to open the airway. Take care not to move their neck.

You should suspect a spinal injury if the person:

  • has been involved in an incident that's directly affected their spine, such as a fall from height or being struck directly in the back
  • complains of severe pain in their neck or back
  • won't move their neck
  • feels weak, numb or paralysed
  • has lost control of their limbs, bladder or bowels



Page last reviewed: 08/01/2016

Next review due: 01/01/2019