Respiratory physiotherapy

What is respiratory physiotherapy?

Physiotherapy is a healthcare treatment best known for treating orthopaedic, musculoskeletal disorders and movement disorders. However, it is a modality which is able to use advanced clinical examination techniques and treatment techniques based on the same principles of mechanics around the lungs and airway.

These principles can also be applied to respiratory disorders and at Circle Health we have expert physiotherapists able to offer outpatient clinic appointments.

Common conditions which can be helped by respiratory physiotherapy include:

  • Asthma
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Bronchiectasis
  • Cystic fibrosis

There are several ways in which physiotherapy can help individuals suffering with respiratory illness including:

Relaxation techniques and postural education

When individuals are in periods of respiratory distress caused by airway restriction, this situation is made worse with anxiety and a subsequent rapid breathing style.

Postures which place the abdomen away from the lungs as well as stress relieving techniques can allow a deeper, slower, and more relaxed pattern of inspiration.

This in turn reduces bronchospasm and reduces respiratory distress.

Lung and airway clearing techniques

Excess secretions in the lungs and airways can reduce lung volume and increase the work of breathing as well as encourage infections.

As such, techniques to remove excess secretions including postural drainage, percussive techniques to help dislodge secretions and techniques to improve the effectiveness of coughing are all employed to clear secretions.

Work of breathing

Individuals suffering from a variety of respiratory illnesses work harder than normal to maintain their breathing pattern for the same energy.

Clearing airways and working on relaxation techniques to increase the diameter of airways (by reducing bronchospasm) makes for easier airflow and breathing.

Fitness and strength

Although respiratory illnesses increase the normal work of breathing and exercise may increase the demands placed upon the cardiovascular and respiratory systems even more, under expert supervision from respiratory physiotherapists it can be a key component of managing respiratory conditions and improving breathing stamina.

The benefits of regular cardiovascular exercise can include a lower resting heart rate, increased maximal lung volumes and changes to muscles such as increased mitochondria and a more dense capillary network within the muscle tissue.

Strength training to specific muscle groups (including the muscles used for breathing in) can also be employed in specific circumstances.

All of these changes mean that in periods of respiratory distress individuals have more reserve to be able to cope with the problem.

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020 3613 6779

Circle Reading Hospital, 100 Drake Way, Reading, RG2 0NE


Overall rating 24th October 2019