Chest physio

graphic showing chest phsyio

Everyone has mucus in their lungs. This is usually cleared when you cough, or when you take deep breaths in the way you do when you are exercising. If the mucus is not cleared regularly, it can lead to a chest infection. Chest physio can help you to loosen and clear mucus that is on your chest. This can be useful if you have a weak cough or a lot of mucus that you are having difficulty clearing.

How to do Chest Physio
  • Chest physio is done when you are laying comfortably on your side.
  • Pillows can be used to support you to stay on your side if needed.
  • A folded towel can be used to make chest physio more comfortable.
  • The hand should be shaped like a cup as though holding water.
  • With a loose wrist, the hand is clapped repeatedly over the rib area.
  • When done correctly, chest physio should not hurt or leave any marks.
  • You may even find it quite pleasant and relaxing.
  • If a flat hand is used, it will feel uncomfortable and sound more like a slap.
  • Clap the hand rhythmically over the whole rib area, at the back, under the arm and above the breast at the front.
  • This can take between 5 and 15 minutes.
  • You will need to turn over to repeat on the other side.
  • Chest physio is usually carried out twice a day, even when you are well.
  • If you are chesty, you may need chest physio more often.
  • You may want to cough, during or after your chest physio.  This is good.
  • You may want to have some tissue ready or your suction machine if you have one.
  • However, you may not cough, and this is fine too.


Breathing excercises for after chest physio

  • Breathing Techniques can help to clear the mucus after the chest physio has loosened it.
  • Not everyone can do these breathing techniques but try them if you can.
  • Sit up as straight as you can, in your usual chair. 
  • Take a few breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth, this helps to relax your airways.
  •  Take a slow, deep breath in, to fill your lungs with as much air as possible. 
  • Hold your breath for the count of 3 – 1, 2, 3.
  • Breathe out quickly, huffing, as if you are steaming up a mirror.
  • Do not repeat this any more than three times in a row, otherwise you may feel lightheaded!
  • This is an easier way of moving the mucus higher up the airways, it is less tiring than coughing repeatedly.

Chest Physio – Top Tips

  • Chest physio is useful to help loosen your mucus before you use any other equipment you might have.  For example a cough assist machine or a suction machine.   
  • Chest physio is usually enjoyable, you may want to put some music on   
  • The person supporting you with your chest physio should make sure that they are comfortable too.  As they will be in the same position for some time. 
  • They should avoid twisting or bending over whilst doing your chest Physio.   If the bed height adjusts, this can be helpful.