Chest Therapy

What is chest physiotherapy?

How to breathe easier with chest physiotherapy

Chest physiotherapy (or CPT) is a type of physiotherapy that helps clear airway secretions like mucus, improving the flow of air into the lungs. It is often called airways clearance therapy (or ACT). For someone with a chronic health condition, coughing or huffing is not enough to clear the build-up of mucus from the lungs, so this type of therapy assists with that natural process.

Chest physiotherapy can help people with conditions such as:

  • Chest infections, Bronchitis, Bronchiolitis
  • Chronic Cough
  • Asthma
  • Feeling short of breath – Breathlessness
  • Hyperventilation Syndrome
  • COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
  • Post-surgery breathing complication

Understanding the need for chest physiotherapy

The word “mucus” might make you cringe, but it’s an incredibly important part of a well-functioning body. Mucus membranes line your mouth, nose, throat, sinuses and lungs, producing mucus to protect and support your organs. They trap bacteria and other particles you breathe in, ones that could get you sick.

When the lungs are functioning normally, little hairs (known as cilia) move the mucus higher up in the airways. Simple acts like coughing and clearing your throat get it out of the lungs.

Individuals with chronic conditions like CF have problems moving the mucus up through the airways, leading to build-up. The mucus gets stuck in the lungs, along with all the bacteria it has trapped. Without external efforts to remove the mucus, there is an increased risk of chest infections and inflammation.

Chest physiotherapy helps clear out the mucus and, along with it, any harmful bacteria that’s been collected.


Chest physiotherapy techniques

Chest physiotherapy can provide effective airway clearance through a variety of techniques performed by a trained physiotherapist or even by a caregiver in the comfort of home.

Chest physiotherapy: Postural drainage

With postural drainage, a physiotherapist uses gravity to drain mucus from the lungs. They will adjust your body into one of many different positions that faces your lungs downward, before clapping and/or vibrating your chest. This could look like three to five minutes of clapping (with a cupped hand), followed by 15 seconds of vibrating (with a flat hand). This impact moves the mucus further up the airways. Once complete, you will be directed to cough powerfully enough to finish clearing the mucus from your lungs.

Important to note: To avoid injury or upset, the person clapping should never touch the spine, breastbone, stomach, lower ribs or back.

Percussion and postural drained should be done on an empty stomach, either before a meal or two and half hours after one.

Chest physiotherapy: Pulmonary Rehabilitation

Pulmonary Rehabilitation is a supervised education and exercise program designed to help people with chronic (long-term) lung diseases. It will not cure your lung disease, but you may notice fewer breathing problems, more strength and an improved quality of life.

What are the goals of Pulmonary Rehabilitation?
Pulmonary Rehabilitation has three main goals:

Help your shortness of breath.
Improve your quality of life.
Improve your ability to do daily living activities, like housework or going out with your family.

What are the benefits of Pulmonary Rehabilitation?
The benefits of Pulmonary Rehabilitation include:

  • You might have fewer symptoms, like less cough or less shortness of breath.
  • Your quality of life may improve.
  • You may be able to walk more or improve your ability to exercise.
  • You may feel better about yourself or feel less anxious.
  • You may feel less tired.
  • You might not have to go to the hospital as often.