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What are vibrations?

Vibrations are a manual technique used by respiratory physiotherapists to help clear secretions (phlegm) from the chest. The technique tends to be applied on expiration (breathing out), and involves the physiotherapist using both hands to vibrate the lower chest wall in order to loosen secretions and allow them to be coughed out. Vibrations can be applied to both lungs or just one lung.

Active cycle of breathing exercises supervised by a specialist physiotherapistAbove: Active cycle of breathing exercises supervised by a specialist physiotherapist

The technique may be either coarse (sometimes referred to as chest shaking) or fine (typical vibrations), both techniques will feel comfortable and share the same aim of moving secretions at the bottom of the lungs to allow them to be coughed up, or suctioned more effectively.

Assessment will enable your respiratory physiotherapist to deliver the technique most effectively; auscultation (listening to your chest) will be particularly useful in deciding the location and duration for which to deliver the technique.

What are the benefits of vibrations?

Vibrations are an effective way of clearing secretions, which reduces the risk of developing a chest infection. Vibrations as a technique also have a number of other benefits including:
  • Can be used in a variety of positions – not limited to in sitting
  • Can require little active input from the patient if necessary
  • Modified technique can be taught and applied by the patient on their own chest at home
  • Can be used in combination with other secretion clearance techniques including autogenic drainage, postural drainage and positioning.

Who would benefit from vibrations?

Vibrations are particularly beneficial for people who are unable to carry out active exercise for whatever reason (acute illness, fatigue, lack of comprehension). Vibrations are a common chest clearance technique used in the management of a number of respiratory conditions including: To find out if respiratory physiotherapy may be able to help you manage your respiratory condition, call today on 0330 088 7800 to book an appointment. You can also book appointments online using our online booking system

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