How to get rid of mucus in your chest

April 16, 2020

We’re in the middle of a pandemic, in the tail end of the flu season and smack dab in the middle of allergy season–whew! All of that is a cause for a lot of mucus build up in your chest and lungs. One nurse expertly shared what is done in a hospital when a person has a build-up of mucus. She shares how something called “Chest Physiotherapy” (CPT) helps drain the lungs and mobilize your airflow.

Chest physiotherapy is a group of physical techniques that improve lung function and help you breathe better. Chest PT, or CPT expands the lungs, strengthens breathing muscles, and loosens and improves drainage of thick lung secretions. Chest PT helps treat such diseases as cystic fibrosis and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). It also keeps the lungs clear to prevent pneumonia after surgery and during periods of immobility.

Types of chest PT Healthcare providers often use different types of chest physiotherapy together, including:

– Chest percussion and vibration to help loosen lung secretions. Some patients wear a special CPT vest hooked up to a machine. The machine makes the vest vibrate at high frequency to break up the secretions.

– Controlled coughing techniques to help break up lung secretions so your caregiver can suction them out or you can cough them up.

– Deep breathing exercises to help expand the lungs and draw more air into all areas of the lungs – Incentive spirometry to help improve lung function by inhaling strongly using a special device. You may use it after surgery to re-expand your lungs and prevent pneumonia.

– Positioning and turning from side to side to help improve lung expansion and drainage of secretions. This is important for patients who are bedridden or hospitalized.

– Postural drainage to help drain lung secretions

The following are different chest PT techniques that health care professionals perform together:

– Chest percussion involves striking the chest wall with cupped hands, often in combination with postural drainage.

– Controlled coughing techniques involve coughing gently, making short grunting noises, or making two to three sharp staccato coughs with the mouth slightly open. Controlled coughing techniques are done with postural drainage and throughout the day.

– Deep breathing exercises involve inhaling deeply through the nose and breathing out very slowly through pursed lips.

– Incentive spirometry involves inhaling through a tube to raise a ball in a sealed chamber. You will need to keep the ball raised for as long as possible.

– Positioning and turning from side to side involves elevating the head of the bed and turning every one to two hours in bed. This promotes drainage of secretions. Caregivers turn patients who cannot turn themselves.

– Postural drainage involves taking positions that allow gravity to help drain secretions. Postural drainage is often useful with chest percussion and coughing techniques.

– Vibration involves placing the hands against the patient’s chest. The hands create vibrations by quickly contracting and relaxing. There are also mechanical CPT vests you can wear for high-frequency vibration. Another name for these vests is Airway Clearance System.