Respiratory Physiotherapy: see what it is for and the indication

Physiotherapy is present in the lives of many people. It is usually the first thing that comes to mind for anyone who has symptoms such as back pain or has suffered a fracture. But did you know that Physiotherapy can also help you breathe better ?

Find out how professional monitoring can help people in preventing diseases, in addition to improving the health condition of patients!


What is respiratory physiotherapy for?

Respiratory physiotherapy can be indicated in cases where there is breathing difficulty or symptoms of shortness of breath. It can also be indicated in more severe cases, such as the need for supplemental oxygen and respiratory changes that interfere with sleep.

There are many causes of respiratory diseases and the physical therapist can act directly on some of them.

Among them the accumulation of mucus or secretion in the airways, in respiratory mechanics – working the muscles and posture to improve breathing – promoting pulmonary hygiene – eliminating secretion or mucus – improving respiratory capacity and also preventing the onset of diseases respiratory.

The technique to be performed by the physiotherapist will depend on the patient’s assessment and condition , which will determine the cause and purpose of the intervention.

However, some cases can be chronic and result from several conditions. Such as constant exposure to pollution and also harmful habits, such as smoking, which over the years can make the lungs less elastic and, therefore, more susceptible to diseases.

The professional will be able to guide active exercises , in which the patient performs them with some or no help from the physiotherapist. In this case, it can be done on bedridden patients, using manual techniques, which are done on the patient’s body.

In addition, some devices developed to make therapy more playful and bring greater visual response to the exercise being performed, with therapeutic effectiveness , may be used .

What are the indications?

Respiratory physiotherapy is indicated both to prevent the onset of lung diseases for bedridden patients, or with reduced mobility, or as a treatment for these lung diseases such as bronchitis , asthma , pneumonia , among others.

Respiratory physiotherapists assess, promote and restore pulmonary functionality of patients in hospital , including in Intensive Care Units (ICUs). Thus, there is daily monitoring, until discharge.

In fact, respiratory physiotherapists work in post-surgical procedures, mainly in the chest and arms, to prevent pain and surgical incision from limiting respiratory function.

Even after hospital discharge, the patient may need home care , which may be temporary or prolonged. In cases of chronic diseases, Respiratory Physiotherapy is indicated to prevent lung diseases from causing frequent hospitalizations.

The goal of therapy is to improve oxygenation, decrease effort and difficulty breathing for people of any age.

However, children and the elderly are more sensitive to respiratory diseases and deserve greater attention, as early monitoring can make a difference in preventing complications.

Some techniques require direct monitoring by a professional. Because the physical evaluation of the patient and the progress of the treatment are fundamental to determine the therapeutic conduct of each session.

Babies and Children

Shortly after birth, premature babies who are hospitalized in the Neonatal ICU can now receive Respiratory Physiotherapy techniques.

Indicated for monitoring the development until discharge home , both in preventing the onset of respiratory diseases as well as in the adequacy of respiratory mechanics (function).

The techniques work by decreasing the effort and difficulty in breathing, so that it occurs independently of devices such as mechanical ventilation, improving oxygenation and bringing comfort in this phase so important for child development .


In old age, simple lung problems can have a long and more serious consequence, as the body is often already fragile.

So, at this stage of life, it is very important to prevent infectious diseases, such as pneumonia, knowing that respiratory diseases are among the three causes of death among the elderly .

Therefore, Respiratory Physiotherapy can be a great ally to prevent complications that may arise at this age. This is especially important when the elderly person already has other diseases, such as stroke, heart problems, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, which are very common.

Some care must be taken during the application of the techniques, as it is necessary that the patient has a good understanding of the commands to perform the exercises alone. When this is not possible, in bedridden patients, for example, it is important that the force applied to the chest does not cause damage to sensitive skin.

What are the benefits of respiratory physiotherapy?

The breathing exercise promotes the relaxation of muscular tensions, with that, the improvement of the respiratory mechanics optimizes the oxygenation of the tissues of the body.

The patient tends to improve breathing capacity already during the session, but it is also possible to work on the prevention of respiratory diseases.

The techniques are used for clearance and bronchial hygiene, also for lung expansion. The strengthening and relaxation of the muscles involved in breathing can be associated or not.

How to make? Techniques and exercises

Exercises can vary according to the needs of each patient. It is necessary to seek a qualified professional for a pulmonary evaluation, indication and follow-up of individualized respiratory physiotherapy.

However, some exercises used in the treatment are:

Lip frenzy

The PLB is a widespread technique , and which can be used when there is a lack of air and light to return to the respiratory rate to normal levels. In general, the procedure is as follows:

  1. Sitting with your feet flat on the floor, hold your face with your hands and leave your elbows on a table to release your respiratory muscles;
  2. Pull the air through your nose in a deep breath;
  3. Release the air through your mouth with your lips just parted, letting it out slowly in a breath;
  4. Try to pull the air in 2 seconds and release the air in 4 seconds to promote relaxation.

Diaphragmatic breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing is perceived by the movement of the abdomen during inhalation and exhalation.

The diaphragm is the main muscle of breathing and in this exercise there is the encouragement of a relaxed, comfortable and effortless breathing, which must be performed slowly and with the concentration focused on the exercise.

  1. Sitting or lying on your back, place your hands on your stomach;
  2. Take a deep breath, pulling the air through your nose;
  3. As the air enters, the belly must move outward, inflating or puffing up;
  4. And while the air is released, the belly muscles must be contracted, helping to expel it.

Stretching of the Breathing Accessory Muscle

The so-called accessory musculature of breathing is activated when we need to breathe more deeply, such as when we run and become breathless. That is, the body uses muscles other than the diaphragm to improve breathing when we are short of breath.

However, the frequent use of this musculature can lead to fatigue and muscle shortening.

As the muscles of the neck region have an influence on breathing, stretching exercises in the cervical region help in relaxation and deeper breathing. They also help to reduce tension and the feeling of shortness of breath.

To do them:

  1. Try to make light movements with your head, looking sideways, up and down, holding for 30 to 60 seconds in each position, to promote relaxation.
  2. Lie on your back and without a pillow, support your head well on the surface and try to relax your shoulders so that they are also supported on the surface, for 30 to 60 seconds and rest.


Avoid holding a cough , as it is one of the ways to remove the mucus released after application, being very effective in clearing the lung.

In addition, placing your hand on your abdomen or hugging a pillow can help you have a more effective cough, especially in post-surgery cases, as it provides greater comfort and reduces pain during movement.

Among the activities of physiotherapy professionals is the respiratory area. With attention and care, qualified physiotherapists assist in the maintenance, recovery and prevention of various conditions that can affect lung integrity or make breathing difficult.