What is Chest Physiotherapy?

Chest physiotherapy (Chest PT) is a therapeutic technique aimed at improving respiratory function and clearing respiratory secretions from the lungs, primarily in patients with conditions such as cystic fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), bronchiectasis, and pneumonia. The goal of chest physiotherapy is to promote effective breathing, improve lung function, and prevent complications such as pneumonia or atelectasis (collapse of lung tissue).

Several techniques are used in chest physiotherapy, often tailored to the individual needs and condition:

Postural Drainage

This technique involves positioning the patient in specific postures to facilitate drainage of secretions from different segments of the lungs. Gravity assists in moving mucus from the smaller airways to larger airways where it can be more easily cleared by coughing or suctioning. Positions may include lying in various directions, sitting, or standing, depending on the areas of the lungs targeted for drainage.

Chest Percussion

During chest percussion, the therapist or caregiver rhythmically claps or taps on the chest wall using cupped hands or a mechanical device. This helps to loosen and mobilize mucus trapped in the airways, making it easier for the patient to cough up and expel.


Vibration involves applying gentle shaking or oscillatory movements to the chest wall during exhalation. This can further loosen secretions and enhance their movement toward the larger airways.

Chest Compression

Chest compression involves applying pressure to the chest wall during exhalation, which helps to mimic the natural squeezing action of the chest during coughing and assists in clearing secretions.

Breathing Exercises

Deep breathing exercises, including diaphragmatic breathing and pursed lip breathing, may be incorporated into chest physiotherapy to improve lung expansion, strengthen respiratory muscles, and enhance oxygenation.

Airway Clearance Devices

In addition to manual techniques, various mechanical devices such as oscillatory positive expiratory pressure (PEP) devices, high-frequency chest wall oscillation vests, and handheld devices may be used to assist in airway clearance and secretion mobilization.