Postural Drainage Physiotherapy

Postural Drainage Physiotherapy

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Removal of mucus from certain parts of the lungs by using gravity and proper positioning to bring the secretions into the throat where it’s easier to remove them, is postural drainage. Segments called ‘lobes’ divide the lungs. Right lung is divided into three lobes (right upper lobe, right middle lobe and right lower lobe), while the left lung has only two lobes (left upper lobe and lower lobe).

Postural drainage is one way to help breathing problems due to swelling and too much mucus in the airways of the lungs. With postural drainage, you get into a position that helps drain fluid out of the lungs. Doing so may help –

  • Make breathing easier
  • Prevent more problems with the lungs
  • Treat or prevent any lung infection

When is the Treatment Most Effective?
A chest physiotherapist will show you the best position for postural drainage. The treatment often works best in the morning. This allows the mucus to be removed that has built up during the night. Sometimes a treatment can be done at night to reduce the need for coughing during sleep to remove the mucus from the throat. Ensure you wait at least 1-2 hours after eating before you start the treatment, as this helps prevent nausea or vomiting. Chest physical therapy just before meals may cause you to become tired and may decrease appetite.

Steps for Postural Drainage Therapy

  • The patient is positioned in different ways so that the diseased area is in a near vertical position, and gravity plays its role to assist drainage of specific segment
  • The positions assumed are determined by the location, severity, and duration of mucous obstruction
  • Using specific positions so that the force of gravity can assist the removal of bronchial secretions from affected lung segments to central airways by means of coughing and suctioning
  • Various exercises prescribed by the physiotherapist should be performed two or three times a day, before meals and bedtime. Each position should be performed for 3-15 minutes

Percussion and Vibration
Your doctor or physiotherapist may also suggest percussion and vibration techniques. Percussion helps break up think fluids in the lungs. Either you or someone else claps a hand on your ribs while you are lying down. This can be done with or without clothing on your chest.

  • Form a cup shape with your hand and wrist
  • Clap your hand and wrist against your chest (or have someone clap your back, if you doctor tells you to)
  • You should be able to hear a hollow or popping sound, not a slapping sound
  • Do not clap so hard that it hurts

Vibration is like percussion, however with a flat hand that gently shakes your ribs.

  • Take a deep breath, then blow out hard
  • With a flat hand, gently shake your ribs


Your physiotherapist will show you how exactly it’s supposed to be done. Do percussion or vibration for 5 to 7 minutes in each area of the chest. Do this on all of the areas of your chest or back, wherever your physiotherapist tells you to. When you finish, take a deep breath and cough. This helps bring up any phlegm, which you can then spit out. In order to know more about the different techniques that can be followed to remove mucus from your lungs, contact our 
professional physiotherapist in Edmonton. They have abundance of experience and knowledge in the field of physical therapy, and they will help you right from the first step to the last one.