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Postural Drainage

Postural drainage is a way to use gravity to help remove mucus from your airways. You may use this method to remove sticky mucus if you have a long-term (chronic) condition like cystic fibrosis. This helps make it easier to breathe and helps prevent infections.

Different positions help drain mucus from different parts of the lungs. You are then able to cough up the loosened mucus. Some people also use percussion to help loosen the mucus. For this, a caregiver uses his or her hand to firmly clap against a certain area to help remove the mucus. You will need to work with your healthcare provider to find out which positions and other methods are best for you.

The timing of postural drainage

Make sure to keep these in mind when using this method:

  • You will need 20 to 40 minutes to do postural drainage.

  • Do not eat before you do postural drainage. Or wait 1.5 to 2 hours after eating.

  • Try this first thing in the morning and at bedtime.

  • You may do this more often when you are more congested.

Positions for postural drainage

On back On your back

To drain the front of your lungs:

  • Lie down so that your chest is lower than your hips.

  • Place a small pillow under your head and 2 pillows under your knees. Lie with your knees bent over the pillows.

  • Rest your arms at your sides and take deep breaths from your belly; this is called diaphragmatic breathing. 

On side On each side

To drain the sides of your lungs:

  • Place a small pillow under your head and 2 or 3 pillows under your hips.

  • Lie on one side with your chest lower than your hips.

  • Breathe using diaphragmatic breathing. After 5-10 minutes, switch to the other side.

On stomach On your belly or stomach

To drain the back of your lungs:

  • Put 2 or 3 pillows under your stomach.

  • Kneel over the pillows, so that your chest is lower than your hips.

  • Rest your arms by your head and breathe using diaphragmatic breathing.


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