Chest physical therapy is a term for a group of treatments designed to improve efficiency in the respiratory system and promote expansion of the lungs.
It primarily involves removing of secretions from the lungs. For some, it is a short-term treatment, while for others it may be a long- term treatment that involves performing certain techniques regularly.
Common ailments requiring chest physical therapy
There are many lung related diseases, which if not treated properly can lead to serious problems. These include cystic fibrosis, asthma, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and various immunodeficiency disorders.
Such diseases can also further lead to recurrent episodes of inflammation, respiratory infections, lung damage, increased production of excess mucus, and airway obstruction. Consequently, the treatment involved aims to make the patient efficient to breathe without exerting too much effort.
Purpose of chest physical therapy
Chest physical therapy is one of the best ways to reduce the risk of an inefficient clearance of airway secretions. Through chest physical therapy, physiotherapists aim to remove excess mucus and help patients breathe more freely.
Thus, depending on the seriousness of the situation, chest physical therapy can be used as a treatment method for anyone from children to adults.
Techniques used in chest physical therapy
Positioning the patient correctly from side to side permits lung expansion. Thus, positioning of the patient plays an integral role in recovery.
Generally, a person should be positioned every two hours for a period of three minutes. If the patient is bedridden, the head of the bed can also be raised to promote better flow.
Deep breathing and coughing
When in treatment, deep breaths once in a while is necessary. This promotes expansion of lungs and also strengthens cough.
Coughing, on the other hand, helps to break up secretions in the lungs to create a path for mucus to be suctioned out.
Both deep breaths and coughs are repeated several times a day, to get rid of mucus out as fast as possible.
Postural drainage is a process of removing mucus by using the force of gravity. This involves draining secretions from small airways into the central airway, where it is either coughed or suctioned out.
Here, positioning is necessary because in this process cough is released through the biggest airway. Thus, if the patient is not positioned correctly, only small quantities of mucus can be coughed out. This further increases the duration of treatment.
Very often, percussion and vibration are performed in conjunction with postural drainage.
Percussion is the process of rhythmically striking the chest wall with cupped hands. This helps in breaking up thick secretions that are stored in every segment of the lungs and generally takes about 2-3 minutes.
Nowadays, mechanical percussors are also used, especially in cases involving children.
Vibration is usually performed using mechanical devices or manually. When done manually, the person performing the procedure places his or her hands against the patient’s chest and creates vibrations by quickly contracting and relaxing arm and shoulder muscles.
This process is done to further break down lung secretions and is often combined with percussions.
Flutter valve is a mucus clearance device that looks like a pipe containing an inner core of steel. It is generally used to create vibrations in the airway walls to loosen secretions.
This process is not applicable in all conditions and thus is performed only on patients above the age of five.
Thus, chest physical therapy is a proven form of physiotherapy that has not only cured people of their ailments but has also helped in preventing them from recurring.