Physiotherapy is the most important rehabilitation program that can remove or significantly decrease physical pain and inflammation without the need for invasive drugs, medication or surgery. It is an important part of post surgical care, especially in orthopedics. Physiotherapy is essential for stroke rehabilitation. It has also been found effective for people suffering from other neurological disorders like Parkinson’s Disease and degenerative disorders like diabetes and osteoarthritis. Through a series of fitness programs and exercises to tone our balance, posture and movement, we are able to accelerate the healing process. One of the important areas of physiotherapy is chest therapy which addresses people affected with breathing and respiratory problems.
Chest therapy is a therapy that improves breathing and enhances the functioning of our respiratory system. It is done to expand the chest areas for easy, controlled breathing and remove secretions from the lungs indirectly, that hinder the process of respiration. People who suffer from respiratory problems, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pneumonia etc can benefit from this form of therapy. Postural drainage, chest percussion, deep breathing, coughing, chest vibration and chest mobility exercises are some of the procedures which are a part of the chest physiotherapy.
Chest mobility exercises, as an important part of chest physiotherapy, are exercises that utilize active moments of the torso and the extremities with deep breathing. This is done to improve the mobility of the shoulders and chest wall trunk in order to facilitate effortless respiration. It has been noticed in some cases, that a person with tension or stiffness of the trunk muscles on one side of the body is not able to expand that area of chest optimally during respiration. Chest physiotherapy exercises that will stretch these muscles with deep breathing can improve the passage of air, leading to enhanced ventilation on that part of the chest.
What a physiotherapist needs to do in this case is to reinforce on controlled expiration. One of the ways to do this is by making the patient lead forward at the hip area or flexing the spine during the process of expiration (breathing out). This movement thrusts the viscera effectively into the diaphragm, which facilitates easy expiration.
Here are physiotherapy exercises for the chest cavity:
1. To mobilize the upper part of the chest and stretch the pectorals: Make the patient sit on a chair with hands entwined behind the head; Let the arms be pulled horizontally, so that pectoralis muscles are elongated, and ask the person to inhale deeply.
2. To mobilize the upper chest and shoulders: With the patient seated on a chair, make him or her extend both arms overhead to 180 degrees bilaterally, during inhalation. After this, have the person bend forward at the hips and try to touch the floor during exhalation.
3. To mobilize one side of the chest: While the patient is seated on the chair, ask him or her to lean away from the taut side to relieve the stiffness and expand that area of the chest during inhalation. Have the patient push his or her fist into the lateral area of the chest, while bending towards the tight side, and breathe out. Have the patient raise the arm, near the right side of the chest, over the head and ask him or her to bend away from this taut side. This will stretch the stiff tissues of the chest, and allow that area to expand better.
4. To increase expiration or exhaling through deep breathing: Ask the patient to flex the hips and knees slightly and breathe in. Then make him or her pull both the knees to the chest area, one at a time, while breathing out. This pushes the abdominal area into the diaphragm and results in better expiration.
Apart from patients suffering from respiratory problems, people with neuromuscular problems like Guillain-Barré syndrome, cystic fibrosis and myasthenia gravis (progressive muscle weakness) can also show positive results from physiotherapy.