When performing CPR, it's tantamount that you be able to clear the person's airway to allow your rescue breaths to reach their lungs. The two most common methods for opening the airway are the head-tilt/chin-lift and jaw-thrust maneuvers. While the head-tilt/chin-lift is the preferred method, it can be dangerous to use on a patient who may have a cervical spine injury.
That's where the jaw-thrust maneuver comes in: it allows you to clear the tongue from the airway with minimal neck movement, allowing rescue breaths to be administered. However, because it's considered relatively difficult to perform correctly, most basic CPR courses will only cover the head-tilt/chin-lift maneuver.
To perform the head-tilt maneuver, approach the patient from the side and place the palm of one hand on the patient's forehead and push down gently, rolling the patient's head towards the top. Then, using the fingers of your free hand, lightly lift the chin even further up.
To perform the jaw-thrust maneuver, approach the patient so that you are facing the top of their head. Place each hand on either side of their face so that your thumbs are on the cheek bone and fingers are underneath the jaw bone. Then pull the lower jaw forward by lifting your fingers while pushing slightly down with the thumbs. Alternatively, for more force, you can use your palms to push down on the cheeks as you lift the jawbone.
If you are not trained in the jaw-thrust maneuver, it is better to stick with using head-tilt/chin-lift. If you are interested in learning and practicing the jaw-thrust method for CPR, consider taking an advanced CPR course or discuss it with your instructor. Some manikins, like the Prestan Jaw-Thrust model (JTM) and the Training Man feature jaw-thrust functionality, allowing students to practice their method.
* Note that this article is not a replacement for professional CPR and first aid training! If you are interested in learning and mastering the proper techniques, you can sign up for a CPR training class.