Types of chest physiotherapy techniques
In chest physiotherapy, percussion is a commonly used technique where the physiotherapist rhythmically pats your chest and back. Percussion generates vibrations that loosen and dislodge mucus from your airways. This promotes mucus clearance. Moreover, a physiotherapist can also generate vibrations by shaking our flat hands against your chest or using a device.
For postural drainage (PD), individuals often assume specific body positions to utilise gravity for moving mucus to areas where it can be coughed out or suctioned. It is important to note that different positions target different lung areas for proper mucus clearance. Commonly utilised positions involve lying with your upper body positioned below the lower body, as well as lying on your side with the affected lung facing upwards.
Breathing exercises, including deep breathing, huffing, and controlled coughing, assist in expanding your lungs, improving airway clearance, and maintaining lung function. Slow, deep breaths are especially effective in loosening mucus. These exercises are performed in various positions based on comfort.
The Active Cycle of Breathing Technique (ACBT) includes three phases: breathing control, deep breathing, and forced expiratory techniques. ACBT facilitates increased airflow through your lungs, mobilising mucus. Therefore, this technique helps clear mucus from your airways, improves lung ventilation, and promotes effective coughing.
Physiotherapists often use suctioning, a technique that involves gently removing mucus or secretions from the nose, mouth, or airways using a small tube or device, to benefit babies who experience difficulty in clearing their airways. Suctioning is performed carefully to avoid any discomfort or harm. However, suctioning can occasionally lead to undesirable effects such as nosebleeds, throat discomfort, and temporary breathing difficulties. Fortunately, they settle quite quickly.
On the other hand, nebulisation is a process where medication is converted into a fine mist that is inhaled into the lungs. This technique helps alleviate congestion and promotes breathing. Nebulisation is carried out with a nebuliser machine.
The specific types of chest physiotherapy techniques that a physiotherapist uses vary based on your condition and age. For adults, we focus on using postural drainage, percussion, and deep breathing exercises to clear mucus and improve lung function. In the case of children and infants, we employ gentle techniques such as manual percussion, vibration, and assisted coughing to ensure safety and comfort. Suctioning is only used in babies’ lung physio sessions.