By Xcell Physiocare, Physiotherapy
The human body is designed in such a way that it has a number of defence mechanisms to protect it from infections. Sputum is one such defence mechanism. However, excessive sputum in the lungs can make it difficult to breathe by clogging up the airways. In such cases, you may need help clearing the airways so as to breathe more easily. Physiotherapy has a number of exercises that can help with airway clearance. These airway clearance techniques can help remove excessive sputum from your lungs. They also reduce the risk of chest infections and make it easier for you to recognize early signs of lung infections. This allows you to seek treatment in the early stages of a disease when it is easier to cure. Airway clearance techniques also help manage a cough that usually accompanies excessive sputum.
There are many different types of airway clearance techniques that may be used by a physiotherapist. The ideal technique for a patient depends on many factors including cause and location of the affected bronchi, patient’s age, type of sputum, cognitive ability, financial status etc. Ideally, one technique should be used at a time and the patient must be taught how to practice this technique every day. On reviewing the case after 6 months or so, the technique may be changed if needed.
The Forced Expiration Technique helps move secretions towards the mouth from where it may be removed. It is a very effective airways clearance technique which involves breathing control and a huffing manoeuvre. In layman’s terms, this technique has three levels that involve inhaling small, medium and deep breaths and exhaling with force.
Positive expiratory pressure (PEP) therapy is another popular airway clearance technique that involves breathing through a mask or mouthpiece. This is usually advised in cases of suppurative lung disease accompanied by excess secretions. Along with clearing the excessive sputum from the lungs, this technique also helps reduce trapped gases in the lungs and improves lung ventilation. It also temporarily increases the lung’s functional residual capacity.
Oscillating PEP (OscPEP) therapy combines high-frequency oscillations with positive expiratory pressure. It involves breathing through a device such that the patient has to take an active expiration against resistance. The oscillations create vibrations in the airways that help displace mucus and make it easier to remove while the positive expiratory pressure helps encourage airflow. Thus, it helps clear trapped gases and excessive mucus from the lungs.