Physiotherapy is the main non-drug treatment for treating excess mucus. Techniques which help you to clear excess mucus from your airways are an important part of physiotherapy for people with illnesses, including COPD and cystic fibrosis, which cause excess mucus production. Techniques include:
Active cycle of breathing – a combination of deep and shallow breathing and forceful breathing out.
Autogenic (self) drainage – a way of using controlled breathing and trying not to cough to make it easier to clear or drain secretions from the lungs.
Using equipment such as a flutter device – a small, hand-held gadget, which when you breathe into it, sets up a vibration in your airways and helps to loosen mucus so it is easier to cough up. A similar piece of equipment is the Positive Expiratory Pressure (PEP) device – a portable mask or a small hand-held mouthpiece with a one-way valve that allows air to flow in easily but creates a resistance when you breathe out. PEP helps inhaled air get behind the mucus in the lungs and then holds the airway open, so the mucus can be pushed out. PEP is done by breathing in and out through the device several times, then ‘huffing’ to remove the loosened mucus.
Postural (or gravity-assisted) drainage – Put simply, lying face down with your head resting on your arms and lower than your chest, while a helper taps your back and ribcage rhythmically with a cupped hand can help you to clear mucus from your lungs, but the technique needs to be taught by a physiotherapist.
Physiotherapists can also help with pulmonary rehabilitation – supervised exercise training programmes and psychological support, which can help your lungs to work better so you can breathe more easily, and make it easier for you to do more - such as walking upstairs – without getting out of breath.
Steam or humidifiers can help to loosen mucus and make it easier to cough up. Be very careful when using steam not to scald yourself. For that reason, a cool mist humidifier may be a safer option.
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