Dear COPD Coach,
I know what the cough technique is for getting rid of mucus, but what is ‘positional’ mucus clearing?
–Wanting to Breathe Better
First, we would recommend talking to your doctor about this before starting anything. Postural or positional mucus clearing uses gravity to help expel excess mucus from the airway. This is done by putting your body in different positions which then drains different parts of the lung.
The bronchial airways in your lungs are configured much like the roots of a tree. Your trachea, or windpipe, can be thought of as similar to the trunk of the tree (except hollow) and the smaller airways as branches. The goal with positional mucus clearance, also called postural drainage, is to get mucus mobilized to larger airways and trachea where they can then be coughed out.
This technique is often used in individuals with Cystic Fibrosis and spinal cord injury, or other paralysis, but can be used for those with COPD, especially if bronchiectasis is a component of their COPD.
Postural drainage can be effective alone, by laying in a position specific to where the most mucus is (if there is more mucus in the right lung, you would lay on your left side). Percussion may also be added. Percussion is a special way of using the hands to tap on the back or chest to loosen mucus. Holding the hands in the cup position requires training and experience using sight, touch and sound, so chest percussion should never be attempted by an untrained individual.
Check with your health care professional if a handheld airway clearance device might be right for you. Devices such as the Flutter and Acapella are easy to use and work by vibrating the insides of your airways to shake mucus loose.
If your condition calls for it, you may qualify for using a mechanical clearance device such as the vest to provide the needed chest or back vibrations.
Hope this helps,
The COPD Coach
Ask the Expert is aimed at providing information for individuals with COPD to take to your doctor, and is not in any way intended to be medical advice.
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