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General Practice 2023

Postural Drainage: What is it for and how to do it

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Postural Drainage: What is it for and how to do it
Postural Drainage: What is it for and how to do it

Postural drainage is a technique used to eliminate phlegm from the lung through the action of gravity, being particularly useful in diseases with a large amount of secretion, such as cystic fibrosis, bronchiectasis, pneumopathy or atelectasis. But it can also be used at home to help clear phlegm from the lungs in case of flu or bronchitis.

Using modified postural drainage, it is possible to use this same strategy to remove excess fluids from any part of the body, in the legs, feet, arms, hands, and even in the genital region, according to the person's need.

What is it for

Postural drainage is indicated whenever it is necessary to move body fluids. Thus, it is particularly indicated to help eliminate respiratory secretions present in the lung, but by the same principle it can also be used to deflate any other area of ​​the body.

How to do postural drainage

If you want to eliminate secretions from the lung, you should lie on your back, down or on your side, on an inclined ramp, keeping your head lower than the rest of your body. The physiotherapist can also use the tapping technique to achieve better results in the elimination of respiratory secretions.

The inclination can be between 15-30 degrees but there is no pre-determined time to remain in the drainage position, so it is up to the physiotherapist to decide how much time he thinks is necessary for each situation. It may be indicated to stay only 2 minutes in the postural drainage position when treatments such as vibrocompression are associated, for example, while it may be indicated to remain in the position for 15 minutes. Postural drainage can be performed 3-4 times a day or at the discretion of the physical therapist, whenever necessary.

To perform postural drainage, you must follow the principle that the swollen part must be higher than the height of the heart.That way, if you want to deflate your feet, you should remain lying on your back, with your leg higher than the rest of your body. If you want to deflate your hand, you should keep your entire arm higher than the rest of your body. In addition, to further facilitate venous return, lymphatic drainage can be performed while in the postural drainage position.


Postural drainage cannot be performed when any of the following situations exist:

  • Head or neck injury;
  • Intracranial pressure > 20 mmHg;
  • Recent spinal cord surgery;
  • Acute spinal cord injury;
  • Pulmonary edema with congestive heart failure;
  • Hemoptysis;
  • Broncho-pleural fistula;
  • Rib fracture;
  • Pulmonary embolism;
  • Pleural effusion;
  • Difficulty in maintaining this position, due to some discomfort.

In these cases, postural drainage can be harmful to the individual's he alth, making breathing difficult, increasing heart rate or causing increased intracranial pressure.

Warning signals

You should seek medical help if you experience the following symptoms: shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, mental confusion, bluish skin, coughing up blood, or chest pain.

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