Home Breathing Exercises


As COVID-19 advances across our cities in the United States, hospitals often use respiratory therapists and/or vests to help reduce congestion. These resources may not be available in the numbers anticipated in the foreseeable future with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The problem – If you end up with pulmonary symptoms of coronavirus pneumonia… there can be significant damage from swelling in the lungs (mucous filling lungs) or cytokine storm (body over-reacts with more swelling) making it difficult and eventually impossible to breathe.

An individual with potential COVID-19 symptoms will be triaged if they have a fever over 100°F, shortness of breath and a cough.

Who will benefit from self-administered postural drainage technique – This postural drainage technique is for the individual who has not admitted into the hospital setting and is being treated at home with early signs of congestion OR perhaps has chosen not to enter the healthcare system.

The CDC outlined precautions regarding the spread of the virus and prevention recommendations. If an individual has multiple risk factors and if the fever is advancing/unresponsive to acetaminophen, (Tylenol) and the shortness of breath is worsening, then steps should be accelerated to seek treatment outside of the home.

For more stable conditions at home, postural drainage can be considered as an intervention to assist in providing more oxygen to various lobes of the lungs by using postures and gravity… More air is on the top-most part of the lung and more blood on the lower-most part of the lung. By inverting the lung, you can not only exchange oxygen and inflate the lower part of the lung but also get the mucus to the top so that it may be coughed up and clear the lung so more oxygen can be exchanged.

Postural Drainage

***Start as soon as you feel lungs getting filled. Don’t wait until you are too sick to bother. 3-5 minutes several times per day.

It can also be taught to an individual without putting another family member or caregiver at risk of exposure to the expectorant/mucus.

POSTURAL DRAINAGE: maintain 10-15 minutes – We have included pictures of 3 possible postures that can be used for postural drainage. In addition, Here’s a video link by Amelia Lindberg PT.  Her 8-minute video link offers gentle postures and descriptions with calming music to incorporate for a home postural program. Feel free to share:

Postural Drainage Positions

Postural Drainage exercises:

Simply get in position and let it flow, helping it along with breathing techniques that emphasize full, prolonged exhale while puffing your cheeks and you blow out long and steady. Have a lot of paper towels to collect the mucous.

A PT did this inside a nursing home in VT during the 1976 flu epidemic for resident patients. They did not lose anyone, while other nursing homes lost dozens. It is an old PT technique that has faded away since we have ventilators and related machines but may be useful if not hospitalized or recovering (please clear with your physician or call us if you have any concerns). Always find a safe place to perform your exercises. Do NOT perform in standing in the event that you may experience dizziness.

One easy way to get into position is to lie over an EXERCISE BALL.

Additional Supplemental breathing exercises: