Bronchitis and pneumonia are symptoms of chest infections. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference, but this article will explain what you need to know.


Bronchitis is caused by inflammation of the bronchi, the branching tubes that deliver air into the lungs. It can also be noted as an infection of the lower respiratory tract. Acute Bronchitis may be caused by viral or bacterial infection. If untreated it can lead to Pneumonia.

Bronchitis affects the bronchial tubes

Depending on whether the cause is viral or bacterial, common signs & symptoms of bronchitis may include:

  • Coughing with clear, yellow or green phlegm (sputum)
  • Fatigue
  • Wheezing & tight chest
  • Shortness of breath, usually following a coughing bout
  • Mild fever & sore throat
  • Chest & abdominal pain from excessive coughing.


Pneumonia is one of the most common chest infections affecting all age groups around the world. Older people and children are particularly susceptible to being admitted into hospital and ICU with severe pneumonia.
Pneumonia results from a bacterial infection in the lungs, which causes the air sacs (alveoli) to become filled with inflammatory cells and the lungs become solid, filled with pus or fluid.

There are several types and causes of Pneumonia.

Signs & Symptoms of Pneumonia:

Pneumonia results from bacterial infection of the lungs.

  1. Persistent fever (often high)
  2. Cough, often with yellow or green mucus
  3. Chills, which sometimes cause shaking
  4. Shortness of breath
  5. Sharp chest pain
  6. Confusion (which occurs primarily in older people)
  7. Increased heart rate and headaches
  8. Muscle pain and loss of appetite.

How can Physiotherapy help with Bronchitis and Pneumonia?

The main aim of Physiotherapy is to keep the airways open and functioning properly. Physiotherapists are able to do this using different techniques such as:

  1. Postural drainage – which is a positioning technique to aid gravity to clear different segments of the lung.
  2. Manual Chest Physiotherapy – these include hands-on techniques to help loosen and mobilise the secretions (phlegm/sputum). Techniques such as percussions, vibrations and shaking are used.
  3. Coughing & huffing exercises – these are used to expectorate the secretions.
  4. Breathing techniques – The Active Cycle of Breathing Technique aids in increased lung capacity and function, as well as strengthening the lungs.
  5. Exercise – in order to improve lung capacity and restore function prior to pneumonia.

Physiotherapy may also be done in conjunction with bronchodilator medication (to help keep the airways open during treatment). Therapy is most effective in pneumonia once antibiotics have been started and the sputum in the lungs can start to loosen with the decreased infection.

Postural drainage positions for pneumonia

Postural drainage positions

If your medical practitioner has recommended that you use Physiotherapy in conjunction with medication in order to treat bronchitis and pneumonia, please contact your nearest Practice of Lamberti Physiotherapy.





This article was updated by Natalie Ruivo-Almeida, Associate Manager at the Dainfern and Lonehill Practices of Lamberti Physiotherapy. Contact the branches directly or use our handy appointment form.


  1. https://www.cochrane.org/CD010277/ARI_chest-physiotherapy-pneumonia-children
  2. https://www.csp.org.uk/frontline/article/physiotherapy-and-treating-pneumonia
  3. https://www.physio-pedia.com/Pneumonia
  4. https://www.physio-pedia.com/Bronchitis