What is Chest Physiotherapy?


Chest physiotherapy is a term used for physiotherapy treatments that are targeted towards issues in the lungs. The cause of this can be from a number of different things including chronic respiratory diseases, respiratory infections eg pneumonia, post-surgery and acute trauma such as rib fractures.


When Do You Need Chest Physiotherapy?

Some lung conditions can be life-threatening if left untreated. Chest physiotherapy is useful for those conditions that increase sputum (secretions) in the lungs. This includes conditions such as pneumonia, bronchitis and cystic fibrosis.

What Does Respiratory Physiotherapy Treatments Involve?

Each respiratory technique has a different use and your condition will influence what is the appropriate technique for you. Your physiotherapist is highly trained at listening to your breathing and the airflow into your lungs to assess where your lungs are being affected. They will then tailor your treatment to assist your breathing and lung function back on track.

How Do Chest Physiotherapy Techniques Help?

A course of usually three-four treatment sessions is recommended, before the full impact of the therapy is achieved. Your respiratory physiotherapist has a range of chest physiotherapy techniques available to use:


Breathing techniques can be used to assist those who have difficulty inflating their lungs, particularly the lower aspects. Although breathing is second nature and something people usually don’t have to think about, at times people can be breathing inefficiently and affecting their ability to inhale or exhale air. This, in turn, affects your ability to utilise oxygen transport in the lungs.

Breathing can also be targeted to assist in clearing the airways and mobilising mucous build up. Your breathing can affect whether you mobilise secretions in the lower airways or upper airways.

Specific positioning can be used to target better inflation of lung areas. It can also be used to assist with draining of mucous from targeted areas of the lungs. Your physiotherapist will advise you which positions are best for you.

Percussion techniques are used to assist the break-up of thick and sticky mucous as well as clearing any mucous plugs that might be causing issues with lung inflation. These can also be combined with specific positioning to better target areas. Your physio will advise if this technique is warranted or contraindicated.


Airway clearance is the ability to effectively clear sputum from the lungs. You have tiny hairs in your lungs called cilia that assist in mobilising secretions towards your mouth for clearance. Breathing and huff techniques can be used to target either the lower or upper airways to aid in the removal of unwanted mucous or particles. Coughing then assists in clearing the upper airways.

What is sinusitis?                                   

Sinusitis is the inflammation of the sinus cavities, which are small air-filled spaces behind the cheekbones and forehead. Symptoms experienced are pain, “stuffiness” in the nose and an increase in mucous production. Often patients report headaches associated with pain extending into the eyes, and a dull ache/discomfort in the face. Physiotherapy is used to treat both acute and chronic sinusitis.

Acute sinusitis usually lasts for less than twelve weeks and is generally caused by a viral infection.

If it lasts for more than 12 weeks, it is usually termed chronic sinusitis. When sinusitis is chronic, the symptoms persist despite treatment with antibiotics and often surgical drainage is needed to provide relief.

Physiotherapy treatment:

The goal of physiotherapy is to treat sinusitis in the early stages of inflammation, to facilitate drainage of mucous, reduce swelling and manage pain.
A course of usually three to four treatment sessions is recommended, before the full impact of the therapy is achieved. The treatment offered includes:

Ultrasound therapy: This works by transporting mechanical energy through vibration of the tissue particles affected. This speeds up the healing process by increasing blood flow to the area; and decreases pain by relieving pressure and reducing swelling.


Laser Therapy: This treatment modality works instantly, destroying micro-organisms with light energy. It is a non-invasive form of treatment, offering an analgesic effect. It also reduces swelling and inflammation, whilst simultaneously acts on allergic and infective agents.


Sinus massage: This is a stimulatory massage of the sinuses and the surrounding areas, to provide pain relief and reduce the feeling of “stuffiness” felt in the nose.


Dry needling: Dry needling can help to reduce pain and the swelling that blocks the nose.


Contact us at 071 895 4837 for further information.