The treatments outlined in Chest Physiotherapy are designed to increase lung function by promoting lung expansion, clearing the airways of secretions, and strengthening respiratory muscles. Various methods are used including percussion, vibration, turning, coughing, and breathing exercises to assist the patient in regaining healthy pulmonary function. Patients requiring chest physiotherapy include sufferers of asthma, COPD, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, bronchitis, and pneumonia. With assistance and specialized equipment, most patients are able to regain much - if not all - of their lung function.
Chest Physiotherapy Methods
Positioning - methods such as turning and postural drainage use the body's position to drain secretions from the airways. By turning, the lungs expand breaking up mucus from the lung walls and alveoli. Often, patients will be placed in side or chest down positions to allow gravity to assist in draining the secretions.
Natural Function - breathing and coughing are the body's natural functions designed to fill and clear the airways. Techniques including assisted coughs and deep breathing exercises help patients more efficiently clear the airways of secretions and increase pulmonary function.
Percussion - caregivers can clap the patient's body around the various lung segments to aid in the breakup of mucus. These secretions can then be suctioned out or expelled by coughing.
Vibration - external and expiratory vibration helps to break up secretions in the lungs. External vibrations, such as that created by a caregiver or “The Vest,” shake the outside of the chest cavity and produce an effect much like percussion. Expiratory vibration, such as that provided by the Acapella or a Flutter Valve, provides intermittent resistance upon exhalation to break up and expel secretions.
Chest Physiotherapy Goals
The ultimate goal of Chest Physiotherapy is to assist the patient in breaking up and clearing secretions from the airways to allow more efficient pulmonary function. This therapy has been particularly helpful for the elderly, Cystic Fibrosis, Muscular Dystrophy, and COPD sufferers. Thanks to caregivers and specialized equipment, these patients are being spared from discomfort, pulmonary degradation, and even asphyxiation.
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