Chest Physiotherapy

The most natural and efficient treatment to treat babies and children with chest infection, cystic fibrosis, pneumonia and bronchiolitis.

Why does my child need Chest Physiotherapy?

Chest Physiotherapy treatment is needed when children have weak abdominal muscles, which do not allow them to make a strong cough and so to get rid of the mucus in their lungs. Chest Physiotherapy will clean their lungs and upper airways from the mucus and allow them to breath, sleep and eat better and so to reduce the length of their illness. Chest physiotherapy is a natural and very efficient technique. Chest physiotherapy is recommended for bronchiolitis, bronchitis, chest infections, pneumonia, cystic fibrosis and asthma in babies as well as children and adults of all ages.

What is chest physiotherapy?

Chest physiotherapy is a set of techniques helping children to cough up mucus and clear their lungs. Chest physiotherapy can be used on babies and children suffering from respiratory illness from 1-month-old. Chest physiotherapy is based on techniques such as accelerated expiratory flow, percussion and vibration, as well as positioning. These techniques are not painful and allow a drug free recovery.

Chest physiotherapy is most helpful in preventing conditions from getting worse, such as pulmonary infection or respiratory distress, if performed in time.

What are the main symptoms of a chest infection?
In general, chest infections have the same primary symptoms, which include:

  • Cough that persists (wet cough or dry cough)
  • Chesty lungs due to the presence of excessive mucus
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Fever, if it is an infection
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Difficulty eating

How is chest physiotherapy done?

A chest physiotherapy session starts with a conversation with the parents/care givers to determine the frequency of the cough and how the child is sleeping and eating. The physiotherapist will then listen to the baby’s lungs with a stethoscope which will allow them to find the location, the amount and the density of the mucus (whether it is thick or fluid). With all these information in hand, the physiotherapist will be able to make a diagnosis and to decide and tailor the frequency and intensity of the chest physiotherapy intervention.

For children that can follow instructions and control their breathing pattern, physiotherapists can use the Active Cycle of Breathing Technique (ACBT). This intervention combines different breathing techniques that help clear mucus from the lungs in three phases. The first phase helps relax the airways. The second phase helps to get air behind mucus and clears mucus. The third phase helps force the mucus out of the lungs. 

Children who require manual techniques will benefit from percussion and vibration with assisted expiratory flow. This intervention is gentle and involves manual patting and gentle vibration to loosen the mucus, followed by a gentle upward pressure over the thorax as the child breaths out, helping to clear the mucus out of the lungs.

The physiotherapist will assess oxygen saturation, breath sounds, capillary refill and work of breathing at the start and the end of the session to determine efficacy.

Chest Physiotherapy is natural, efficient and painless. Cleaning the mucus from the lungs will be a big relief for your child who will then be able to eat, breathe, and sleep better.

6 Signs that your child could benefit from chest physiotherapy

  1. Frequent chest infections

Have you noticed that your child gets sick more often than their peers/siblings? Are they are often diagnosed with bronchitis or pneumonia? Have you experienced frequent hospital visits?

Children who have frequent chest infections may have a compromised ability to clear their lungs of normal, everyday secretions. These secretions function to keep our lungs healthy by capturing and removing pathogens (organisms that cause disease) breathed in, or when food/drink goes down ‘the wrong pipe’.

Special ‘hair-like’ cells help to move pathogens toward the upper respiratory tract. Every time you clear your throat or cough, you swallow these without realising it. Seems gross, right? But it is essential to healthy lungs.

  1. Compromised physical function

Does your child have a disability or illness that slows down, or changes how they move? Has your child been diagnosed with a disability or illness that has a history of affecting motor function, such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy or childhood cancer? Is your child predominantly or permanently wheelchair-based?

Children (and adults) who have compromised mobility due to illness or disability are at a much higher risk of developing compromised lung function. This is because, for lungs to function optimally, physical movement is essential. This includes being able to sit up right, perform physical activities, and take deep breaths.

  1. Weak cough

Have you noticed that your child struggles to cough, or that their cough sounds weak?

Being unable to generate a strong cough can be a feature of reduced motor control, muscle weakness and/or fatigue. Having a strong cough is vital to healthy lung function because this is how pathogens are expelled.

Retained secretions that stay behind in the warm, moist environment of our lungs, provide bacteria with the perfect breeding ground.

  1. Productive cough (mucus)

Is your child producing mucus when they cough? If they are, have you noticed whether it is clear (like saliva) or has it got a colour to it – yellow, green or brown? Colour in sputum can indicate whether there is a potential infection, consolidation or blood. Even though it is a bit yucky, it does provide lots of useful information on what is going on inside.

  1. Struggling to keep up with activities

Does your child get tired after bouts of physical activity? Have you noticed that your child becomes breathless or works hard to breath during exertion? Does your child have shortness of breath, even at rest?

When lungs are either a) compromised by retained mucus, or b) cannot fully inflate it becomes increasingly difficult to offload oxygen into the blood stream.

Less oxygen means less energy for brain, muscle and organ function.

  1. Shallow breathing or apical breathing

Does your child have difficulty taking deep breaths? Reduced expansion or only breathing into the upper respiratory tract is called apical breathing. This is where the upper respiratory muscles are moving the chest up and forward. However, the lower respiratory muscles of breathing such as the diaphragm, transverse abdominus and oblique muscles, which contribute to the sideways expansion of the chest wall, are not working well.

Apical breathing is often seen in neurological complications, as well as in shortness of breath and panic attacks.

If you have any concerns or questions regarding your child’s chest health, you can get in touch with our physiotherapist, Gisele Penzhorn on 07 5636 9458 or email gisele@centreofmovement.com.au


Annoni, S., Bellofiore, A., Repossini, E., Lazzeri, M., Nicolini, A., & Tarsia, P. (2020). Effectiveness of chest physiotherapy and pulmonary rehabilitation in patients with non-cystic fibrosis bronchiectasis: a narrative review. Monaldi Archives for Chest Disease90(1).

Beningfield, A., & Jones, A. (2018). Peri-operative chest physiotherapy for paediatric cardiac patients: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Physiotherapy104(3), 251-263.

Bingol, I., Gokdemir, Y., Yilmaz‐Yegit, C., Ergenekon, P., Atag, E., Bas Ikizoglu, N., … & Karadag, B. (2020). Comparison of conventional chest physiotherapy and oscillatory positive expiratory pressure therapy in primary ciliary dyskinesia. Pediatric Pulmonology55(12), 3414-3420.

Kubo, T., Osuka, A., Kabata, D., Kimura, M., Tabira, K., & Ogura, H. (2021). Chest physical therapy reduces pneumonia following inhalation injury. Burns47(1), 198-205.

Wang, M. Y., Pan, L., & Hu, X. J. (2019). Chest physiotherapy for the prevention of ventilator-associated pneumonia: A meta-analysis. American journal of infection control47(7), 755-760.

"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much"

– Helen Keller

Intensive Therasuit
Paediatric Neurological Rehabilitation
Therasuit australia
Center of movement
Scroll to Top