Chest infections such as asthma, pneumonia and bronchitis can drag on for weeks when not treated correctly. Physiotherapy can help.

What happens with chest infections?

The lungs are lined with a thin layer of fluid to prevent them from drying out and to assist with lung expansion during breathing. Under normal circumstances, this fluid can be removed by coughing. However, when there is a chest infection, this fluid increases and can become excessively thick making removal difficult. Antibiotics can control the infection but do not aid in the removal of excess secretions. This is where physiotherapy can help.

There are specific physiotherapy techniques used to assist in moving these excess secretions from the smaller airways to the larger airways, where it is easier to cough them out.

How does physiotherapy help with chest infections?

Chest physiotherapy has been proven effective for asthma and many chest conditions. This form of therapy is so versatile that it can be used with newborns, infants, children, and adults. It is a specialised treatment aimed at improving respiratory efficiency, promoting lung expansion, strengthening respiratory muscles and removing excess secretions.

Treatment can include:

  • Postural drainage
  • Chest percussion
  • Chest vibrations
  • Breathing exercises
  • Coughing techniques
  • Nebuliser

How does physiotherapy help with asthma?

Asthma is a chronic disease affecting the airways of the lung. In people with asthma, the airways are sensitive to stimuli. Therefore those who have asthma, experience recurrent and reversible flare-ups (attacks) of airway narrowing and inflammation.

Asthma usually begins in childhood but can affect people of any age. During a flare-up of asthma, the symptoms can include wheezing, breathlessness, cough and chest tightness.

Most patients with asthma will seek physiotherapy for shortness of breath, hyperventilation or a chest infection. Physiotherapy techniques that are used in conjunction with the patient’s prescribed medication to help reduce symptoms include:

  1. Breathing techniques
  2. Breathing Pattern retraining
  3. Physical exercise retraining
  4. Respiratory muscle retraining
  5. Secretion removal
  6. Education about:
    1. Their condition
    2. Use of a bronchodilator and other medication
    3. How to prevent chest infections from occurring
    4. Correct posture in standing and sitting, which assists in the management of asthma attacks by allowing the chest to expand appropriately and the lungs to function optimally.

This article was updated by Kate Lamprey Associate Manager at the Fourways and Douglasdale Practices of Lamberti Physiotherapy. Contact her directly to discuss any concerns you may have, or else complete our handy appointment form.


  1. Choose Physio for Asthma. (2019).
  2. Renata André Laurino, (. m.-R. (2012). Respiratory rehabilitation: a physiotherapy approach to the control of asthma symptoms and anxiety. Clinics, 1291-1297.