What is Pulmonary Physiotherapy?
Chest or pulmonary physiotherapy is a type of physio treatment for conditions associated with the lungs. This can be due to a variety of issues including respiratory infections and chronic respiratory diseases. Chest physio uses a range of techniques to help improve lung function including percussion, breathing techniques, airway clearances techniques and specific positioning. It also includes specific advice and education about a patient’s condition.
What is Chest Physio Used For?
Some lung conditions may require a doctor to refer a patient for pulmonary physiotherapy. Chest physiotherapy can be very helpful with conditions that increase secretions in the lungs such as pneumonia, cystic fibrosis, bronchiectasis and bronchitis. Physiotherapy can also help with clearing mucus plugs that develop in the lungs due to some conditions such as asthma and emphysema. This mucus can vary in thickness and be difficult to clear. It can stop certain areas of the lungs from inflating properly, blocking air flow.
Conditions that may benefit from physiotherapy include:
- Lung surgery
- Cystic fibrosis
There are a wide range of techniques used in lung physiotherapy. These techniques help with air entry and removal of secretions. Patients can also be taught how to expand certain areas of the lungs, nasal breath or breathe using the diaphragm. Some of the techniques used include:
Percussion techniques: these are used to help break up thick and sticky mucus in the lungs. It also helps to clear mucus plugs that may be causing problems with lung inflation. Percussion techniques can be combined with specific positioning to target certain areas of the lungs.
Breathing techniques: this can be helpful for those who are have difficulty inflating their lungs. Although breathing is usually second nature, some conditions may reduce a person’s ability to effectively inhale and exhale affecting oxygen transport within the lungs. Breathing techniques can also be targeted to help with mucus build up in the lungs.
Specific positioning: this technique helps to improve inflation of particular areas of the lungs. It can also be used to help with clearing mucus from specific areas.
There are a range of devices that can also be used to help with the treatment of lung conditions. Some devices help with lung inflation and breathing techniques, while others can help to loosen mucus making it easier to clear the airways. These devices may be recommended by a doctor or physiotherapist.
Exercises can be used to improve the expansion of the lungs. While often used in cardiorespiratory conditions, some forms of gentle exercise can benefit respiratory problems. Some of the exercises include:
- Expanding certain areas of the lungs
- Breathing using the diaphragm
- Breathing techniques
- Nasal breathing
- Relaxed breathing
- Using a flutter device
Respiratory physiotherapists are highly trained in the assessment and treatment of many types of lung conditions. Treatment is tailored to suit the patient’s needs and health. There are many types of techniques used to improve the symptoms of respiratory conditions. With proper breathing strategies and exercises, chest physiotherapy can help to improve the quality of life for those with respiratory conditions.