Skip to main content

Warning notification:Warning

Unfortunately, you are using an outdated browser. Please, upgrade your browser to improve your experience with HSE. The list of supported browsers:

  1. Chrome
  2. Edge
  3. FireFox
  4. Opera
  5. Safari

Physiotherapy for COPD

Physiotherapy can help people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma.

Physiotherapy for breathing conditions

Lung disease can make breathing difficult.

Depending on the type of lung disease, common problems can be:

  • difficulty getting air into or out of your lungs (shortness of breath)
  • trouble getting oxygen into or around your body
  • a build-up of phlegm
  • fluid in your lungs
  • growth of a tumour in or around your lungs

These problems can make it harder for you to move, exercise and do daily activities.

Physiotherapy uses different techniques to help with these problems.

Your physiotherapist will talk to you about your condition and symptoms.

Your treatment will depend on:

  • your symptoms and condition
  • your health and how well you could deal with the treatment
  • the expected outcome of your illness or disease

Treatment plan

Your physiotherapist will make a treatment plan with you which may include:

  • breathing exercises – techniques to reduce shortness of breath or help clearing of mucus or phlegm
  • manual techniques – percussion and vibrations to loosen mucus or phlegm
  • positioning – to help lung expansion and clear phlegm
  • exercise programmes – improving activity levels and fitness
  • education and self-management – advice on using inhalers, nebulisers and oxygen
  • prescriptions, advice and training in using devices to help clear your airway or lung volume loss
  • pulmonary rehabilitation classes in hospitals and community settings

Your treatment plan will help you to manage your condition. It will also help you to recognise when you need help from your GP or other healthcare professionals.

Accessing physiotherapy services

To access physiotherapy services through the HSE, your GP, hospital doctor or respiratory consultant will need to refer you. This is to make sure that you are seen by the right physiotherapy team.

Some HSE physiotherapy services have waiting lists. Urgent referrals are seen first.

In some cases, you might be sent to a specialist clinic. For example, pulmonary rehabilitation.

Private physiotherapy

You may choose to pay for treatment outside of the HSE (private treatment). Most private physiotherapists do not need a referral from your doctor.

Find a list of private physiotherapists -

Page last reviewed: 12 August 2021
Next review due: 12 August 2024

This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 9.