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Chest physiotherapy involves a number of physical techniques to help remove excess mucus from respiratory passages and improve breathing. The goal is to help patients breathe more freely and get more oxygen through the blood stream into all parts of the body.
Normally, mucus helps lubricate the lungs. But infection, trauma or illness can create excess mucus that needs to be cleared for better breathing. This treatment method is applied by physical therapists or respiratory therapists and is often part of the treatment plan for people with:
- Artificial ventilation
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Cerebral Palsy
- Cystic Fibrosis
- Fractured ribs
- Head or neck injury
- Heart attack
- Post operative
Typically, chest physiotherapy is done several times a day in either a sitting up or lying down position. There are six different techniques:
Postural Drainage: This technique uses gravity as an aid to draining secretions by optimizing the position of the body to clear mucus.
Chest Percussion: Also known as cupping or clapping, this technique involves the rhythmic striking or hitting of the chest, back and below the arms to loosen up thick mucus and force it from the small airways to the large airways, where it can be expelled.
Controlled Coughing: This technique helps break down thick mucus and then helps expel the mucus.
Deep Breathing: This technique improves the distribution of air throughout the body by expanding lung tissue.
Turning: Like postural drainage, this technique uses the natural force of gravity to help loosen and move mucus from the lungs. It involves turning a patient from side to side to expand the lungs and promote drainage.
Vibration: This technique is performed simultaneously with a patient doing deep breathing exercises. Gentle vibrations are applied to the chest either manually (hands-only) or mechanically to help break up lung secretions.
Coughing and Deep Breathing
Coughing and deep breathing are techniques used to help clear the respiratory system of secretions. The goal of coughing and deep breathing is to increase lung capacity and expand the airways after a period of inactivity or anesthesia. The combination of voluntary coughing and deep breathing helps loosen and clear mucus from the large and small air passages and prevents lung infections – all of which make breathing easier. Coughing and deep breathing are best accomplished in a sitting or standing position.