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What Can I Expect from Lung Physiotherapy?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Lung physiotherapy can loosen lung secretions and help patients breathe more easily. Also called chest physiotherapy, it can involve a series of exercises to perform under direction from a physiotherapist along with work to do at home. The precise program can depend on why a patient needs treatment and how well the patient responds to therapy. Patients with chronic conditions like cystic fibrosis may need to attend sessions throughout their lives to manage lung secretions and keep their lungs as healthy as possible.

Sessions start with an assessment to discuss why the patient needs lung physiotherapy. This can include a review of the patient’s medical history and notes from other care providers. Information from this session can help the physiotherapist design an appropriate program to promote lung health and function without tiring or injuring the patient. Many of the exercises are tiring and can be uncomfortable, especially for young children, so it is important to consider these issues when planning sessions to reduce the risk that the patient could become noncompliant.

In the office, lung physiotherapy can include various postural exercises to promote drainage from individual lobes of the lung. While the patient lies on a table, the physiotherapist gently positions the body and uses percussion to loosen secretions and encourage them to drain. Patients can also do breathing and coughing exercises. Some of these exercises may be repeated at home to keep secretions loose and bring them up.

Home lung physiotherapy may require postural treatment with percussion from family members to keep the lungs clear between sessions. Patients can also wear vests that provide vibration and percussion for the lungs. Breathing exercises and coughing may be part of the home therapy program as well. Peak flow meters and similar tools can assess lung function to allow patients to monitor progress and keep logs. If they notice a decline, they can schedule an immediate appointment for evaluation.

Patients commonly need lung physiotherapy as part of a cystic fibrosis treatment plan. It can also be helpful for patients recovering from pneumonia and other infections, along with those who have lung disease. Post-surgical recovery may include some lung physiotherapy to keep the lungs open and functional. This can be a concern after intubation in surgery, which can expose the patient to the risk of pulmonary complications. Preventative care can keep the lungs open and clear so patients can breathe freely and decrease the chances of developing problems like infections.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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