What Is Postural Drainage? - Definition, Therapy Techniques & Positions

Instructor: Meghan Greenwood

Meghan has taught undergraduate and graduate level science courses and has a PhD in Immunology.

This lesson will introduce you to the concept of postural drainage. It will also familiarize you with the techniques and positions established to effectively use this therapy. A short quiz follows the lesson.

Clearing Your Pipes

Think of the last time you ate a hamburger or french fries. Are you a fan of ketchup? The typical ketchup bottle is usually made of glass, with a larger base than neck. Recall when you turned the ketchup bottle upside down. It is likely that the ketchup didn't flow out of the glass easily. It may have taken a few shakes or hits of the bottle neck in order to get the ketchup to move down the glass. Eventually, after some effort, the ketchup descended slowly onto your plate.

Now imagine that the glass bottle represents your lungs and the ketchup is the mucus that fills your lungs. Mucus is important for coating the lungs and protecting against debris and germs; however, there are times when the substance becomes too thick or full, leading to respiratory dysfunction. A buildup of excess mucus can even enhance the risk of infection. Common causes of mucus buildup include bronchitis, cystic fibrosis, and spinal cord injury. Although it is somewhat unappetizing to picture mucus as the ketchup, similar issues can occur with trying to get the phlegm to emerge from the lungs.

Excessive mucus can lead to restricted airways and subsequent respiratory problems.
Mucus in airways

What Is Postural Drainage?

A therapy known as postural drainage is used to help remove mucus from your lungs. Postural drainage is a therapy that involves moving a person into specific positions to help drain mucus from the lungs. With the aid of gravity and specific positioning, the mucus slowly moves to the mouth, where it can then be spit out.

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