This article is a part of a series by The Better India to share verified information about COVID-19 care. While several posts on various aspects of fighting COVID-19 are being circulated on social media and messaging services like WhatsApp, we urge you not to trust unverified content. To separate fact from fiction, we will be sharing the videos and content with doctors and experts and bring you their responses with scientific research-backed information.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought everything to a standstill. However, social media seems to be working overtime, churning out ‘viral’ messages and videos on how to treat COVID-19. While some of these messages and videos may have some truth hidden to them, many are random forwards clogging up both mind space and memory on your device.
One such viral video is recommending chest physiotherapy for recovering COVID-19 patients.
WhatsApp message being circulated: A 58-year-old male has been admitted to Vedantaa Institute of Medical Sciences, COVID-19 positive, with [oxygen] saturation at 62 %. Saturation continuously dropped after admission so the patient was put on NIV [non-invasive ventilation]. The patient then maintained saturation at 85% only due to too much secretions and cytokine storm. Our doctors decided to start chest physiotherapy twice a day. After the second day of chest physiotherapy, the patient maintained saturation at 97-98%, without NIV, at 2-4 litres of oxygen and is recovering well.
The doctors have started chest physiotherapy for many COVID-19 patients so far. Patients are responding well and supposedly stable (sic).
The Better India caught up with Dr Praveen Gupta, Director and Head of Department, Neurology, Fortis Memorial Research Institute to understand the legitimacy of the viral video and more details about chest physiotherapy.
Here’s what he has to say about the video:
What is chest physiotherapy?
Chest physiotherapy is a mechanism wherein the chest muscles are stimulated to improve the lung capacity and bring out the secretions which are stuck in the lung.
According to Indian Paediatrics, “Chest physiotherapy is essential in the airway clearance of acute and chronic respiratory disorders with retained airway secretions. This definitely helps to improve and maintain the well being of the patients within the limitations imposed by the impaired lung function. Regular CPT plays a significant role in reducing the morbidity in children with chronic lung diseases like cystic fibrosis.”
When is it needed?
It can be performed on patients with respiratory disorders who are in the recovery phase after contracting COVID-19. It reduces the requirement for artificial supplementation/oxygen supplementation and improves the exercise capacity of the patient.
Who can administer it?
Trained physiotherapists, trained attendants or a chest therapist can administer this form of therapy. I would like to reiterate here the need for only trained professionals to administer this technique.
About the technique of chest physiotherapy shown in the video
The video demonstrates chest physiotherapy being performed in a formal hospital set-up. It shows patients being seated while two people repeatedly bang on the chest and back of the affected person. As seen in the video, it requires inputs from multiple people and therefore should not be tried at home.
Can this be done by someone at home?
Medical personnels can train people to perform chest physiotherapy correctly at home. It is not to be practised without proper supervision, especially in home settings. One cannot perform this technique even by watching a step-by-step video tutorial online.
Does this work?
It is a legitimate technique. This technique helps in releasing the secretions trapped in the chest. It also helps the patient breathe easy and reduces bouts of cough.
Do note as mentioned by Dr Praveen Gupta that while chest physiotherapy is a legitimate technique, it must only be practised by a medical professional or by someone who has been trained by a medical professional. Do not resort to trying this technique by watching videos online.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)