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Step-by-step recovery position

The recovery position can help someone recover after a tonic clonic seizure. These steps should be followed once the shaking has stopped.

  1. Person demonstrating step 1 of the recovery position Kneel on the floor to one side of the person.

  2. Person demonstrating step 2 of the recovery position Place the person’s arm that is nearest to you at a right angle to their body, so that it is bent at the elbow with the hand pointing upwards. This will keep it out of the way when you roll them over.

  3. Person demonstrating step 3 of the recovery position Gently pick up their other hand with your palm against theirs (palm to palm). Turn any rings inward to avoid scratching their face. Now place the back of their hand onto their opposite cheek (for example, against their left cheek if it is their right hand). Keep your hand there to guide and support their head as you roll them.

  4. Person demonstrating step 4 of the recovery position Use your other arm to reach across to the person’s knee that is furthest from you, and pull it up so that their leg is bent and their foot is flat on the floor.

  5. Person demonstrating step 5 of the recovery position Gently pull their knee towards you so that they roll over onto their side, facing you. Their body weight should help them to roll over quite easily.

  6. Person demonstrating step 6 of the recovery position Move the bent leg that is nearest to you, in front of their body so that it is resting on the floor. This position will help to balance them.

  7. Person demonstrating step 7 of the recovery position Gently raise their chin to tilt their head back slightly, as this will open up their airway and help them to breathe. Check that nothing is blocking their airway. If there is an obstruction, such as food in their mouth, remove this if you can do so safely. Stay with them, giving reassurance, until they have fully recovered.


Person lying in the recovery position

Call for an ambulance if:

  • it is the person’s first seizure;
  • they have injured themselves badly;
  • they have trouble breathing after the seizure has stopped;
  • one seizure immediately follows another with no recovery in between;
  • the seizure lasts 2 minutes longer than is usual for them; or
  • the seizure lasts for more than 5 minutes and you don’t know how long their seizures usually last.


Recovery position video

Watch a step-by-step video to putting someone in the recovery position.

Taken from our The recovery position factsheet.  Download this factsheet using the link below.