Clear mucus from your lungs and bronchi: series of 8 helpful exercises. Part 2


Mucus forming in the lungs during an infection is a normal physiological reaction. The goblet cells produce more mucus so pathogens can be quickly transported out of the system. At the same time, the mucous membranes become swollen because many immune defence cells are being transported to the site of the infection. More mucus and swollen mucous membranes constrict the bronchi, which is also where air flows. So breathing becomes more difficult. By doing certain exercises, mucus in the lungs can be mobilised so that it can be expectorated more easily and quickly. Every week we will present another one of the eight helpful exercises here on our PARI BLOG:

How do breathing exercises work to clear mucus in the lungs and/or bronchi?

We asked Marlies Ziegler this question. She is a physiotherapist who specialises in respiratory physiotherapy and who every day works with patients who have chronic problems with clearing mucus from their lungs and bronchi. So she is well versed in effective exercises for mobilising mucus in the lungs. Not only are these exercises suitable for patients with chronic lung diseases such as COPD, cystic fibrosis, PCD and chronic bronchitis, they are also appropriate for times when the lungs and bronchi are acutely congested with mucus due to colds, bronchitis or pneumonia.

Marlies Ziegler knows from experience that the exercises work. The reason is that “the exercises have a positive effect on the flexibility of the chest, the spine and the ribs. Breathing is altered by this increased flexibility and the mucus can be cleared better.”

To achieve the best possible result, all of the exercises should be synced with your breathing. Syncing one’s breathing and movements can cause fluctuations in the bronchi in time with one’s breathing, enabling the air to get in behind the mucus. The mucus loosens and can be transported out of the lungs more easily. This works even better if you hold your breath for a short time after inhaling (if possible, slowly count to three).

Exercise 2: Screw (supported)

The “screw” exercise twists your spine and stretches the muscles in your chest. By twisting your spine and stretching, more air can flow into the stretched out side of your ribcage and can get behind the mucus there. In addition, the exercise can provide relief if there is tension due to increased coughing or coughing fits.

Depending on how flexible you are, you can do the “mini” or “maxi” version of this exercise. For the easier “mini” version place one leg on top of the other and bend both knees instead of having the bottom leg straight.

The “screw” exercise will be even more effective if you use a PEP system for exhaling, e.g. the PARI PEP S system as shown in the photo. How to do this exercise:

  1. Lie on your back on the floor.
  2. Turn so you are lying on one side and bend your knees.
  3. For the “maxi” version, straighten out your bottom leg. Keep your top leg bent and angle it down to the floor. If necessary, support your knee with a pillow. For the “mini” version, keep both of your knees bent.
  4. Put your lower arm loosely on your bent knee.
  5. Bring your top arm to the other side by turning your ribcage and extend it out, placing it on the floor. If it is difficult for your shoulder to go to the floor, support your shoulder as well with a pillow or blanket. Even with the support you should feel the stretch. Your palm will be facing up toward the ceiling. The objective is for both shoulders to touch the floor and the bent knee to keep in contact with the floor or cushion while in the twisted position.
  6. Breathe in and out deeply through your nose. Send your breath into the twisted side of your chest. Feel how your chest moves, how your ribs move apart and then come together again.
  7. Stay in this position for at least 30 seconds.
  8. When you have mastered this exercise, you can use a PEP system (e.g. PARI PEP-S) while exhaling to help with mucus mobilisation.
  9. Slowly go back to the starting position and then do the exercise on the other side.

It is good to hold this position for at least 30 seconds. Your muscles need a certain amount of time before they yield.

About Marlies Ziegler

Marlies Ziegler works as a physiotherapist in private practice in Munich. She specialises in respiratory therapy. She has been treating patients with chronic obstructive and restrictive airway diseases such as asthma, COPD, cystic fibrosis (CF) and primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD), for 20 years.

Exercise 1: Bow and arrow while lying down

Exercise 3: Fish (activ or supported)

Exercise 4: Diaphragm brige active

Exercise 5: Mini cobra

Exercise 6: Chest rotate and strech position

Exercise 7: Diaphragm pokes

Exercise 8: Pinching yourself


Note: The information in this blog post is not a replacement for treatment. The exercises described should be used as examples for respiratory therapy. PARI recommends that patients always coordinate with their doctor and physiotherapist.

An article written by the PARI BLOG editorial team.

Back to overview