Chest Physiotherapy

by Toronto Health | Posted: September 15, 2020

Chest physiotherapy incorporates treatment techniques that addresses the removal of lung secretions and improves airway clearance to help improve a patient’s respiratory efficiency. Chest physiotherapy is the term for a group of treatments designed to eliminate excess mucus in the lungs or airways to help decrease work of breathing, promote the expansion of the lungs, and prevent the lungs from collapsing.

Conditions which may benefit from respiratory physiotherapy include:

  • Asthma
  • Pneumonia
  • Emphysema
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Abdominal surgery
  • Lung surgery
  • Thoracic trauma
  • Cystic Fibrosis

Physiotherapy can help both acute and chronic respiratory conditions in many ways. It is often used as an adjunct to medical management if required. It can assist by:

  • Slowing breathing rate and effort
  • Clearing excess secretions, sputum, from the lungs
  • Helping to expand lung volume
  • Increasing oxygenation of the blood stream
  • Reducing wheezing and shortness of breath
  • Improving pulmonary fitness and therefore exercise endurance

Chest physiotherapy can benefit the elderly or those who have a compromised immune system. It can help prevent symptoms deteriorating and avoid a possible hospital admission. It can be very useful in conditions such as cystic fibrosis, pneumonia and bronchitis as it assists with the clearing of sputum (secretions) from the lungs.

A trained physiotherapist will assist to improve lung function through a variety of techniques. Depending on the condition, some of these techniques may include; percussion, vibrations, breathing exercises, learning lung expansion, nasal breathing, diaphragmatic breathing and relaxed breathing exercises.

Chest physiotherapy may be necessary in certain serious conditions, and your doctor might refer you to a respiratory physiotherapist. As physiotherapists are first line practitioners, skilled in assessment and diagnosis, a doctor’s referral is not essential prior to your first appointment.  As such, you may choose to see a respiratory physio directly and they can liaise with your GP following your initial assessment.


  1. Chaves GS, Freitas DA, Santino TA, Nogueira PA, Fregonezi GA, Mendonça KM. Chest physiotherapy for pneumonia in children. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2019(1).

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