Postural Drainage

Postural drainage helps clear mucus out of the airways of your lungs. This will help you breathe better and avoid infection. Postural drainage is most effective if administered by a Physical or Respiratory Therapist. However, if one is not available, you can perform the following routines to help clear mucus out of your lungs.

Tips Before Starting

  • Mucus must be thin for the postural drainage to work. To help thin your mucus, drink 8-10 cups of room temperature water and other caffeine-free fluids every day for 2-3 days before doing postural drainage.
  • If you use a bronchodilator, do postural drainage after the bronchodilator has begun to work.
  • Do postural drainage only when your stomach is empty.
  • It is best to do postural drainage first thing in the morning (1 hour before breakfast) and in the evening (at least 1 hour before going to bed.

To keep your airways open, do deep breathing and pursed lip breathing in each position you do.  Practice controlled coughing after each position.  Ask your therapist or nurse for instructions on how to do these breathing exercises or refer to the sections on breathing exercises and effective coughing.  The mucus should be easier to bring up and out.  Do not cough when your head is lower than your chest.  Always sit up to cough (refer to the section on Breathing Positions for further help.)

Postural Drainage Positions

There are 4 basic positions:

  1. On your back
  2. On your right side
  3. On your left side
  4. On your stomach

In each one of these positions, your head and chest should be tilted slightly lower that the rest of your body. This can be achieved by placing several pillows under your hip area while lying on an otherwise flat surface.

Do the positions that are checked by your doctor or your Asthma and Lung Center therapist.  He or she will also tell you:

  • How many times each day to do postural drainage
  • How often to do each position
  • How long to stay in each position

If you have questions or need assistance in learning these techniques, please consult your doctor or contact your therapist at the Asthma & Lung Center.