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Respiratory Care


Respiratory care includes exercises and treatments to help you breathe better and keep your lungs healthy. Respiratory care is important for people with spinal cord injuries because it helps prevent infections, such as pneumonia.


Take deep breaths and cough at least 4 times a day:

This will decrease your risk for a lung infection. Take a deep breath and hold it for as long as you can. Let the air out and then cough strongly. Deep breaths help open your airway. You may be given an incentive spirometer to help you take deep breaths. Put the plastic piece in your mouth and take a slow, deep breath, then let the air out and cough. Repeat these steps 10 times.

Exercises and treatments you may need:

Your healthcare provider will tell you how often you need the following:

  • Breathing treatments help open your airways so you can breathe easier. A machine is used to change liquid medicine into a mist. You will breathe the mist into your lungs through a tube and mouthpiece.
  • Postural drainage (PD) helps loosen the mucus in your lungs. You will sit or lie down in several different positions to help gravity bring up the mucus.
  • Chest physiotherapy (CPT) also helps loosen mucus and may be done at the same time as PD. During CPT, a healthcare provider lightly claps on your back and chest with his hands. This brings up the mucus from your lungs and makes it easier to cough it up.
  • Quad assist coughing helps you cough up mucus if your muscles do not work correctly. A healthcare provider will place his hands on your abdomen between your ribs and belly button. He will thrust his hands upward at the same time that you cough.
  • Suctioning may be needed if other treatments do not work. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about suctioning.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You feel lightheaded, short of breath, and have chest pain.
  • You cough up blood.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.