Chest Physical Therapy

Chest physical therapy, also called chest physiotherapy, is a treatment for people with diseases of the lungs or air passages such as bronchiectasis. This therapy helps you cough out excess secretions from the lungs. Removing the secretions reduces the chances of lung infections and makes breathing more comfortable.


Chest physical therapy removes extra secretions from the lungs by moving the secretions into the upper airways. From there, the secretions can be coughed out. Various methods may be used to move the secretions into the upper airways, including the use of certain postures or positions and various physical techniques.


Chest physical therapy is usually needed for a short period of time. It may be needed for a longer period of time in people with chronic breathing problems. The therapy is often done in the morning. This helps to remove the secretions collected during the night. Your health care provider will determine when and how often you should do chest physical therapy based on your needs.


Various techniques may be used in chest physical therapy. Many techniques require help from another person. This will often be a respiratory therapist. Your health care provider will determine which methods will be most helpful for your situation. Common methods include:

Postural Drainage 

You are placed in certain positions where gravity helps to drain the mucus from the lungs into the bigger airways. This is where the mucus can be easily coughed out.

Chest Percussion

This method is also called cupping or clapping. Using cupped hands, the helper will rhythmically strike your chest wall. Percussion helps break up thick secretions in the lungs so that those secretions can be more easily removed. It may be done along with postural drainage. Mechanical devices are sometimes used for this procedure. Each area that is to be drained is normally struck for 3–5 minutes.

Chest Vibration 

In this technique, the helper uses his or her hands to produce vibrations on your chest. This helps break up the secretions in the lung. This procedure may be done along with postural drainage and percussion. It is always done while you are breathing out through your mouth. Chest vibration is usually repeated for 3–4 exhalations in each set.

Controlled or Assisted Coughing

Controlled coughing techniques help break down thick mucus secretions and increase the cough pressure to expel the mucus. In some cases, an assisted coughing technique is used if a person is not able to produce a forceful cough.

Deep Breathing Exercises

Deep breathing helps expand the lungs and distribute air to all sections of the respiratory system.