Chest physical therapy is the term for a group of treatments designed to improve respiratory efficiency, promote expansion of the lungs, strengthen respiratory muscles, and eliminate secretions from the respiratory system.
The purpose of chest physical therapy, also called chest physiotherapy, is to help patients breathe more freely and to get more oxygen into the body. Chest physical therapy includes postural drainage, chest percussion, chest vibration, turning, deep breathing exercises, and coughing. In the early 2000s, some newer devices, such as the positive expiratory pressure (PEP) valve and the flutter device, have been added to the various chest physical therapy techniques. Chest physical therapy is normally done in conjunction with other treatments to rid the airways of secretions. These other treatments include suctioning, nebulizer treatments, and the administering expectorant drugs.
Good respiratory health is not possible without efficient clearance of secretions in the airway. In a healthy person, this is normally accomplished through two mechanisms: the mucociliary clearance system (MCS) and the ability to cough . There are many diseases and disabilities in children linked with poor lung health and an impaired ability to clear secretions. These include cystic fibrosis, asthma, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy , and various immunodeficiency disorders. When a child is unable to clear mucus, breathing becomes hard work. He or she must expend extra effort and energy in order to get oxygen. This difficulty can lead to a vicious cycle of recurrent episodes of inflammation, respiratory infections, lung damage, increased production of excess mucus, and possibly airway obstruction. Chest physical therapy is one way to reduce the risks of an inefficient clearance of airway secretions. Depending on the specific technique and health situation, chest physical therapy may be used on children from newborns to adolescents.
Various methods of chest physical therapy have been used since the early 1900s to help manage airway clearance disorders. The techniques have been refined since that time. The procedure may be performed by a respiratory therapist, a nurse, or a trained family member. However, chest physical therapy presents some challenges and requires skill and training in order to be safely and effectively performed.
Chest physical therapy is a method of clearing the airway of excess mucus. It is based on the theory that when various areas of the chest and back are percussed, shock waves are transmitted through the chest wall, loosening the airway secretions. If the child is positioned appropriately, the loosened secretions will then drain into the upper airways, where they can then be cleared using coughing and deep breathing techniques. The following techniques are all part of chest physical therapy.