Alayne Ronnenberg, ScD
In addition to medications and surgery, other treatments are often used to help relieve some of the symptoms associated with COPD. These treatments help reduce phlegm and other pulmonary secretions. Reducing these makes breathing easier.
In general, coughing helps clear mucus from the lungs. However, directed coughing allows you to cough from deep in your lungs to get the mucus to move up the airway and out of the body. It works best after using an inhaler. It is important to maintain control while doing this. If your cough becomes uncontrolled, the airways will close up and the mucus will not be able to come out.
This procedure is designed to help remove secretions from the airways. You are instructed to lie in various positions. The different positions allow gravity to drain fluids from different parts of your lungs. This may be done after inhaling an aerosol that loosens secretions.
In this procedure, a respiratory therapist lightly claps the chest and back. This helps to dislodge large amounts of secretions and makes them easier to cough up and spit out.
While this may be used, the evidence supporting the effectiveness of postural drainage or chest percussion is weak
Although these treatments are not generally used as part of overall COPD management, they may provide benefit to some people under certain circumstances. Talk to your doctor before using these treatments because some may be more effective for you than others.
Acute exacerbation of COPD. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116563/Acute-exacerbation-of-COPD. Updated February 9, 2017. Accessed February 22, 2017.
Cross JL, Elender F, Barton G, et al. Evaluation of the effectiveness of manual chest physiotherapy techniques on quality of life at six months post exacerbation of COPD (MATREX): a randomised controlled equivalence trial. BMC Pulm Med. 2012;12:33.
Huff cough technique. The University of Mississippi Medical Center website. Available at: https://www.ummchealth.com/Health_Care_Services/Lungs_and_Breathing_(Pulmonary)/Adult/Cystic_Fibrosis/Cystic_Fibrosis_Testing_and_Care/Huff_Cough_Technique/Huff_Cough_Technique.aspx. Accessed February 22, 2017.
van der Schans CP. Conventional chest physical therapy for obstructive lung disease. Respir Care. 2007;52(9):1198-1206.
Last reviewed February 2017 by Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
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