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Discharge Instructions: Postural Drainage

Postural drainage is a technique in which you change your body position to help your lungs drain. If you have a chronic problem with mucus, or you have increased mucus from an infection, lying with your chest lower than your abdomen can loosen and drain excess mucus from your lungs. The following guidelines will help you know what to do.

General guidelines

  • Find positions that are comfortable for you. You can lie on a bed or on the floor, using pillows. Try some of the positions that are described below.

  • Stay in each position for at least 5 minutes.

  • When you feel the urge to cough, sit up and do controlled coughing.

  • Make sure to do postural drainage on an empty stomach; also do it 30 minutes after using a bronchodilator or inhaler.

  • Check with your doctor before trying the various positions.

On your back

Try this position to drain the front of your lungs.Image of person lying on back; pillows under bent knees..

  • Lie on a slanted surface with your chest lower than your hips.

  • Place a small pillow under your head; place 2 pillows under your bent knees.

  • Rest your arms at your sides and breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Remember: Always breathe out for longer than you breathe in. This allows your lungs to empty as much as possible.

On each side

Try this position to drain the sides of your lungs.Image of person lying on side; pillows under hips.

  • Place a small pillow under your head and 2 or 3 pillows under your hips.

  • Lie on one side with your chest lower than your hips.

  • Breathe in through your nose; breathe out through your mouth.

  • After 5 to10 minutes, switch to the other side.

On your stomach

Try this position to drain the back of your lungs.Image of person lying draped over pillows.

  • Put 2 or 3 pillows under your stomach.

  • Drape your body over the pillows so that your chest is lower than your hips.

  • Rest your arms by your head.

  • Breathe in through your nose; breathe out through your mouth.

Follow-up care

Make a follow-up appointment as directed by our staff.


When to seek medical care

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the following:

  • Wheezing, coughing, or shortness of breath 

  • Increased mucus

  • Yellow, green, bloody, or smelly mucus

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Tightness in your chest that does not go away with rest or medicine

  • An irregular heartbeat

  • Swollen ankles

Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Online Medical Reviewer: Turley, Ray, BSN, MSN
Last Review Date: 10/22/2014
© 2000-2016 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.