when should chest physiotherapy be done

When Should Chest Physiotherapy be Done?

Chest physiotherapy is a specialized technique that focuses on improving respiratory function and clearing mucus from the airways. It can be beneficial for individuals with various respiratory conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis, bronchiectasis, and pneumonia. However, knowing when to undergo chest physiotherapy is crucial for maximizing its effectiveness. In this blog post, we will explore the different scenarios when should chest physiotherapy be done, the techniques involved, and the benefits it can provide.

When Should Chest Physiotherapy Be Done?

Understanding when chest physiotherapy should be done is crucial for individuals seeking effective respiratory care. Patients can optimize their treatment outcomes and improve their overall lung health by knowing the appropriate timing for this therapeutic technique.

Pre- and Post-Surgery

Chest physiotherapy plays a vital role in pre-and post-surgical care, especially for procedures involving the chest or respiratory system. Before surgery, chest physiotherapy can help prepare the lungs by improving lung capacity and clearing excess mucus. This can significantly reduce the risk of postoperative complications such as pneumonia and atelectasis.

After surgery, chest physiotherapy helps to prevent the build-up of mucus, improve lung function, and promote faster recovery. Techniques such as deep breathing exercises, coughing, and percussion can aid in clearing the airways and preventing infections. It is crucial to follow the guidance of a healthcare professional to ensure the correct timing and techniques are utilized.

Acute Respiratory Infections

Acute respiratory infections, such as bronchitis or pneumonia, can cause excessive mucus production and inflammation in the airways. Chest physiotherapy can be highly beneficial in these cases to help clear the airways, enhance breathing, and reduce the risk of complications.

The techniques used in chest physiotherapy for acute respiratory infections include postural drainage, percussion, vibration, and breathing exercises. Postural drainage involves positioning the body in specific ways to allow gravity to assist in draining mucus from different lung segments. Percussion and vibration techniques are utilized to help loosen mucus from the airway walls, making it easier to expel through coughing.

Chronic Respiratory Conditions

Individuals with chronic respiratory conditions such as COPD, cystic fibrosis, or bronchiectasis often experience impaired lung function and excessive mucus production. Chest physiotherapy can be an integral part of their treatment plan to help manage symptoms and improve quality of life.

For these conditions, chest physiotherapy may involve a combination of techniques, including postural drainage, percussion, vibration, huffing, and breathing exercises. Postural drainage helps to target specific lung segments and clear mucus, while percussion and vibration techniques aid in loosening mucus from the airways. Huffing is a technique that involves forced exhalation through an open mouth to move the mucus toward the larger airways for easier removal.

Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a genetic disorder that affects the lungs and other organs. It produces thick and sticky mucus in the airways, making it difficult to clear. Chest physiotherapy is essential to CF management and should be performed regularly to prevent complications.

In CF patients, chest physiotherapy typically involves a combination of techniques such as postural drainage, percussion, vibration, active cycle of breathing techniques (ACBT), autogenic drainage, and exercise. ACBT involves a series of breathing exercises, including deep breathing, huffing, and forced expiratory techniques to improve airflow and clear mucus. Autogenic drainage focuses on controlled exhalation at different lung volumes to mobilize mucus effectively.

Prevention of Respiratory Complications

Chest physiotherapy is not only beneficial for treating existing respiratory conditions but also plays a crucial role in preventing complications in individuals who are at risk. This includes individuals who are bedridden, have limited mobility, or are at higher risk of developing respiratory infections.

Regular chest physiotherapy sessions can help prevent the build-up of mucus and improve lung function in these individuals. Techniques such as deep breathing exercises, coughing, and postural drainage can be employed depending on the specific needs and capabilities of the individual.

Sports Performance Enhancement

While chest physiotherapy is commonly associated with respiratory conditions and post-surgical care, it can also benefit athletes and individuals involved in intense physical activities. Chest physiotherapy can enhance respiratory efficiency during exercise by optimizing lung function and clearing excess mucus.

For athletes, chest physiotherapy techniques such as breathing exercises, huffing, and active cycle of breathing techniques (ACBT) can improve lung capacity, oxygen uptake, and overall performance. Regular chest physiotherapy sessions can also help prevent respiratory infections that could hinder training or competition.

Pediatric Care

Children with respiratory conditions or those who have difficulty clearing mucus from their airways may require chest physiotherapy as part of their treatment plan. This includes conditions such as cystic fibrosis, bronchiolitis, or asthma.

Chest physiotherapy techniques for pediatric patients may involve modified versions of adult techniques such as postural drainage, percussion, vibration, and breathing exercises. It is crucial to consult with a pediatric healthcare professional or a specialized chest physiotherapist to ensure safe and effective treatment for children.

How to Perform Chest Physiotherapy at Home?

Performing chest physiotherapy at home can be a helpful way to alleviate respiratory issues and improve lung function. Here are some steps to follow for effective chest physiotherapy:

Positioning: Begin by sitting upright or slightly reclined with proper support. This position allows better access to the chest and helps in clearing secretions.

Deep Breathing Exercises: Take slow, deep breaths through your nose, expanding your lungs fully. Hold it for a few seconds and then exhale slowly through pursed lips.

Huff Cough Technique: Place both hands on your lower ribcage and take a deep breath in. Then, using short exhalations, forcefully say “huff” as you cough out any mucus from your airways.

Chest Percussion: Cup one hand and gently clap the upper back area of the chest with a rhythmic motion. This technique helps loosen secretions trapped in the lungs.

Postural Drainage: Position yourself so that gravity assists in draining mucus from specific areas of the lungs affected by congestion or infection. For example, lying on your left side encourages drainage from the right lung.

The Benefits of Chest Physiotherapy

Chest physiotherapy, or chest PT, is a specialized technique to improve respiratory function and promote lung health. This therapy has numerous benefits for individuals with various respiratory conditions.

One of the key benefits of chest physiotherapy is its ability to help clear mucus and secretions from the lungs. Through specific techniques such as percussion and postural drainage, it helps loosen and mobilize mucus that may be trapped in the airways. By doing so, it can prevent complications like infections and improve breathing.

In addition to clearing mucus, chest physiotherapy can also enhance lung expansion and strengthen respiratory muscles. This is particularly beneficial for individuals with conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or cystic fibrosis who often experience reduced lung capacity. By improving lung function, patients may find it easier to breathe during physical activity and experience less shortness of breath.

Furthermore, chest physiotherapy can aid in preventing atelectasis – a condition where parts of the lungs collapse due to decreased airflow. The techniques used in this therapy can help open up collapsed air sacs by promoting deep inhalation and exhalation exercises.

Another advantage of chest physiotherapy is its role in enhancing overall quality of life for individuals with respiratory issues. By reducing symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and breathlessness through regular sessions of chest PT, patients may experience improved sleep patterns and increased energy levels throughout the day.

There are several significant benefits associated with performing regular sessions of chest physiotherapy. From clearing mucus to strengthening respiratory muscles and improving overall lung capacity- this therapy plays a crucial role in supporting optimal respiratory health for those with various conditions

Precautions and Tips for Effective Chest Physiotherapy

When it comes to chest physiotherapy, a few precautions and tips can help ensure its effectiveness. First and foremost, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any type of chest physiotherapy, especially if you have any underlying medical conditions or concerns.

One important precaution to keep in mind is the position in which you perform the therapy. It is crucial to maintain proper body alignment during chest physiotherapy sessions. This means sitting upright or slightly reclined with good support for your back and neck.

Another tip for effective chest physiotherapy is to use the correct technique. The therapist will usually provide specific instructions on how to perform each maneuver correctly. It’s essential to pay attention and follow these instructions carefully.

It’s also crucial not to overdo it when performing chest physiotherapy at home. While it can be tempting to push yourself harder, remember that too much force or frequency may cause discomfort or injury. Start slow and gradually increase intensity as advised by your therapist.

Maintaining consistency is key for successful outcomes with chest physiotherapy. Regularly following your prescribed treatment plan will yield better results compared to sporadic sessions.

By taking these precautions and following these tips, you can optimize the effectiveness of your chest physiotherapy sessions while minimizing any potential risks or complications.

Final Words

Chest physiotherapy is a valuable technique for improving respiratory function, clearing mucus from the airways, and preventing complications associated with various respiratory conditions. Whether it is pre- or post-surgery care, acute respiratory infections, chronic conditions like COPD or cystic fibrosis, prevention of complications, sports performance enhancement, or pediatric care – chest physiotherapy has a significant role to play. Individuals can optimize their respiratory health and overall well-being by understanding when chest physiotherapy should be done and working closely with healthcare professionals or specialized chest physiotherapists.


In which condition is chest physiotherapy given?

Chest physiotherapy is typically given in various conditions that affect the respiratory system. It is commonly used for individuals with lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis, bronchiectasis, and pneumonia. This therapy aims to improve lung function by clearing mucus and secretions from the airways, promoting better breathing, and preventing complications like infections. Additionally, chest physiotherapy can be beneficial for patients who have undergone surgery or experienced trauma to the chest area, as it helps with pain management and enhances post-operative recovery. Chest physiotherapy is a valuable treatment option for respiratory conditions requiring airway clearance and improved lung function.

What kind of patients need chest physiotherapy?

Chest physiotherapy is a specialized form of therapy that focuses on the respiratory system and helps improve lung function. It is typically recommended for patients with specific conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis, pneumonia, bronchiectasis, and asthma. These patients often experience difficulties in breathing, excessive mucus production, or impaired lung function. Chest physiotherapy aims to clear mucus from the airways, improve lung capacity, and enhance overall respiratory health. Additionally, it can be beneficial for individuals recovering from chest surgeries or those who have experienced chest trauma. The therapy is tailored to meet each patient’s unique needs and may involve techniques like percussion, vibration, deep breathing exercises, and postural drainage.

When is chest physiotherapy contraindicated?

Chest physiotherapy is a valuable treatment option for various respiratory conditions, but there are instances when it should be contraindicated. One such situation is when a patient has an unstable or severe cardiovascular condition, as the physical manipulation involved in chest physiotherapy may exacerbate their symptoms or put them at risk. Additionally, if a patient has recently undergone surgery in the thoracic region, chest physiotherapy may interfere with the healing process and should be avoided. Patients with certain acute injuries, such as fractured ribs or sternum, should also avoid chest physiotherapy to prevent further damage. Healthcare professionals must assess each patient’s individual circumstances before deciding on the appropriateness of chest physiotherapy.

Can you do chest physiotherapy after eating?

It is generally recommended to wait at least one to two hours after eating before engaging in any physical activity, including chest physiotherapy. This is because digestion requires blood flow to the stomach and intestines, and exercising immediately after a meal can divert blood away from the digestive system, potentially causing discomfort or indigestion. Additionally, certain positions or movements involved in chest physiotherapy may put pressure on the abdomen, further interfering with digestion. To ensure optimal results and minimize any potential discomfort, it is best to allow sufficient time for digestion before starting chest physiotherapy.


"Hasan", I am a physiotherapy Doctor. I have completed my B.S.c course (4 years) under Rajshahi University, Faculty of Medicine, Rajshahi. Currently I am working as a clinical physiotherapist at a renowned physiotherapy center and I am continuing my MPT (Master's of physiotherapy) degree at CRP, Savar.

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