What is Respiratory Physiotherapy?

The main aim of physiotherapy is to restore or develop and then continue or maintain the patient's functional movement and range of motion. A physiotherapist will usually begin with an examination or an assessment once you've had a diagnosis. They will then devise a physical therapy programme for an individual patient based on their assessment/diagnosis and the likely prognosis for that patient. A physiotherapist will assess their patient and classify them by their ability to conduct physical movements necessary for them to participate fully in day-to-day life. Respiratory physiotherapy can often include exercises and physical manipulation to help clear fluid or secretions on the chest or lungs and also breathing exercises.  However, physical therapy is not limited to this in patients with respiratory disorders.  Increasingly, respiratory physiotherapy programmes include training to improve stamina and aerobic capacity.

Who Needs Respiratory Physiotherapy?

Respiratory physiotherapy is a specialised form of physical therapy designed to help patients who are suffering from respiratory difficulties or disorders. Some examples include:

  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Pneumonia
  • COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
  • Bronchiolitis
  • Asthma
  • Inhaled Foreign Body
  • Lung Disease

What does a Respiratory Physiotherapist Do?

Respiratory physiotherapy has a place in the treatment programme at all stages of a disease or illness from initial diagnosis, throughout both chronic and acute phases.  It is usually recommended that patients follow a maintenance programme even after recovery to minimise the risk of relapse or further difficulties.  If the prognosis is poor, respiratory physiotherapy can provide valuable relief for patients in the terminal stages of their illness. A physiotherapist will be involved in their patient's treatment programme at all stages and will be in a position to offer ongoing advice, education, support and physical help. In the case of respiratory disorders, the physiotherapist can aid in the removal or mobilisation of fluid or secretions in the respiratory tract, but this is just one of the possible physical symptoms that a physiotherapist can address. A respiratory physiotherapist can also:

  • Improve your physical strength, flexibility and range of motion
  • Help you to improve your stamina and cardiovascular health
  • Help you to find ways to carry out daily tasks
  • Help you to find coping strategies and assist with pain management
  • Reduce the incidence and severity of breathlessness
  • Improve your lung capacity and/or breathing efficiency
  • When a patient is using mechanical ventilation and needs to move to non-invasive mechanical ventilation or breathing independently, a respiratory physiotherapist will be able to assist in this process.
  • Advise and educate patients on healthy habits and practices
  • Reduce any pain that is manifesting itself in other parts of the body

Respiratory Physiotherapists specialise in treating patients with respiratory diseases.  They have extensive experience and training in physiology and physiotherapy as it relates to respiratory function, respiratory physiology and muscular physiology.

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