How Vibration Is Performed During Chest Physiotherapy

A doctor checks a patient with breathing problems.
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If you have COPD, you may have heard of postural drainage, a treatment performed by respiratory therapists and physical therapists to help clear airways. One of the fundamental techniques used to perform postural draining is called vibration. This airway clearance technique, coupled with chest percussion, is applied during therapy to help COPD patients clear mucus from their airways. Here's how vibration is performed and what you can expect if you schedule an appointment.

Postural Drainage

Postural drainage is a technique that targets specific segments of the lungs to help clear mucus from the lungs of people with COPD and other respiratory illnesses. There are two techniques that caregivers use to perform postural drainage: chest percussion, a clapping movement performed with cupped hands, and vibration, a vibrating movement done with flatter hands.

How Vibration Is Performed

During vibration, caregivers will place a flat hand firmly against the patient's chest wall, on top of the appropriate lung segment to be drained. They then stiffen their arm and shoulder, apply light pressure and create a shaking movement, similar to that of a mechanical vibrating device. If you're the patient, you'll be instructed to breathe in deeply during vibration therapy, and exhale slowly and completely. Taking a deep breath and then exhaling slowly and forcefully without straining will help stimulate a productive cough.

How It Helps

Vibration helps relieve COPD symptoms by gently shaking mucus and secretions into the large airways, making them easier to cough up. This is helpful because coughing is one of the more effective means of airway clearance. When you learn how to perform controlled coughing, you'll be better able to effectively cough up the mucus loosened by vibration and postural drainage.

A Word From Verywell

Now that you understand how the vibration technique works, learn what to expect during your session. Check out these resources to see diagrams and explanations of the various postural drainage positions.

With the help of these techniques, you can have clearer airways and breathe better with COPD.

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  1. Gupta L, Gupta H. Physiotherapy for respiratory conditions. Adv Nursing Patient Care Int J. 2018;1(1):180003.