Massage vs. Cystic Fibrosis

By April Warren and Ross Ashcraft

Cystic fibrosis is a hereditary disease that produces excessive thick mucus mostly in the lungs.  In the X-Ray to the side, you can see how cloudy the lungs look.  This is due to the buildup of fibrotic tissue and mucus in the lungs.  It causes problems digesting, breathing, and body cooling.    One of the main ways that doctors diagnose Cystic Fibrosis is to give a sweat test.  If the patient has this condition, their bodies do not retain salt and this excess salt will show in their sweat.  My son like many children are diagnosed with this disease at a young age.  This condition is therefore a very personal battle to me and one I use every technique I can find to combat.

One way to relieve the symptoms of cystic fibrosis is through appropriate massage.  Massage is an excellent treatment for many conditions.  It takes skill and lots of study to know how to apply the correct massage technique to the correct client.  Massage therapist must learn as many pathologies as possible in order to give their clients the best treatment.  But none of us can memorize every treatment possible.  This is why we recommend reference material.  Every massage business should one or two reference books on hand to look up any unknown diseases or conditions; and several great websites to look up any exotic or strange diseases our clients may reveal.


1.)  Position:  Lying Down:

Postural drainage on the back inside the scapulas will look a lot like Tapotment.  Postural drainage using percussion is used along with gravity and will help pull the mucous from the chest to the throat.  Percussion is applied to the client torso with their head is lowed by the use of pillows.  They could also have their head lower than their chest by hanging partly off the table or bed.  This allows gravity to do some of the work. To drain the middle and lower portions of the lungs, the chest should be above the head.  To drain the upper portion of the lungs, the client should be sitting up at a 45 degree angle.

2.)  Position:  Sitting:

Stand behind the client and make sure they are comfortable.

Example 1)  Use percussion and vibration over the muscle area between the collar bone and the very top of the shoulder blades (shaded areas of the diagram) on both sides for 3 to 5 minutes.  Have clients take a deep breath and cough during percussion to clear airwaves.

Example 2)  In this position, the client leans over on a bed or in a chair with arms dangling over a pillow.  Percussion and vibrated with both hands on the upper back are used on the right and left side.

Example 3):  In this position, percussion and vibrate over the bottom part of the shoulder blades on both the right and left side of the spine.



2.)  Do not do postural drainage and percussion on bare skin.


Try the above technique on a fellow therapist or willing client.  FYI:  Technique takes several minutes to do properly.  Let us know all feedback!!!

“Position #11.” COPD. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Aug. 2012. <>.”Kick CF with Jordan Gross Set for April 28th 2012 at 3PM at Providence High School.”Kick Cystic Fibrosis with Jordan Gross. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Aug. 2012. <>.

23 thoughts on “Massage vs. Cystic Fibrosis”

  1. when a person has trouble getting a cough out of there chest this will also work to do to yourself. Just cup your hand and put your fingertips under your clavicle in an upside down v fashion with your thenar eminence toward their armpit. Start tapotement to loosen that cough up. I use this on myself and most the time it works.

  2. This was a really fun blog! I loved the pictures too. I will have to try these techniques even though the laying down positions do not look comfortable to me they may be for someone who has Cystic fibrosis. Thank you for sharing this!

  3. The drainage methods used on clients with Cystic Fibrosis has come very far in the last century. Before methods such as these were discovered, people were under the assumption that you had to continuously beat a child’s back violently in order to “break the mucus free.”

    In is much more comfortable to the client to position them the right way and let gravity do much of the work.

  4. This is a really informative blog! Learning ways to help people with different conditions is always a plus… because we won’t always be massaging healthy people and it will also help increase client tell the broader our knowledge is about different techniques! Thanks for this 🙂

  5. Thank you so much for this blog April & Ross. I used this technique with my daughter this weekend, she was sick and couldn’t breathe right. I used the technique with the palm lying down and I really got some results.

  6. I really enjoyed this blog I find that it will come in handy when myself or my son is all stopped up. When I am stopped up I find that laying on my back tapping my chest at the same time, i noticed that many times my air way clears up and I can breath better.

  7. I will have to try this on my son. He has had an bad cough like an deep chest cough. The doctor says just allergies which it could be but after 2-3 weeks of allergy medication, to me he shouldn’t be still coughing as bad if at all. So I will have to try this technique to see if it helps.

  8. This was a really informative blog, April. Thank you for writing it! My client liked the laying face down with the pillow under his hips technique the best. He said he could relax more than the other positions.

  9. Loved this blog 🙂 I used percussion and tapotment on my daughter last week. She had an icky wet cough so I propped her torso up and had her head lower than her chest while I did it and it really helped clear some of the mucous out of her lungs a lot faster than if I had not done this. It is so exciting to learn how we can help people with what ales them besides just achy muscles. Thanks for this APRIL and Ross 🙂

  10. Tried this on my wife. She stated that it a little uncomfortable but it felt relaxing.
    She did feel the release of some sinus blockage. Much easier than cleaning with salt and water.

  11. I thought this blog was very informative. I totally agree that we should have wide spread knowledge on different pathologies. I also agree with the idea of having reference material at hand just in case. My client liked the lying down style better than the sitting up. I think that the ability for gravity to assist in the process made it better.

  12. Vary interesting blog this week. I personally have a mucus problem so I’m excited to have someone in class try this on me. I hope that it works as well for me as some others that have posted this week.

  13. This is a great read. Will defiantly use it if I get a client with cystic fibrosis. I did not know anything about it till reading this.

  14. I used this on fellow family members and they very much appreciated and felt pretty comfortable in most positions especially example 3. Though they didn’t have any chest congestions they still felt like they could breathe better in general.Thank you for letting us know about this technique to clear the lungs.

  15. I feel that doing a massage of this type will greatly help the pt, let alone doing it on someone who isn’t having the problem but to just help loosen things up with the chest cavity

  16. Awesome blog. I have a friend with Cystic Fibrosis and she is in and out of the hospital nearly every month. One time, she was in for three weeks to clear up a chest infection. Preventative maintenance is definitely the best option for this type of client. I can’t wait to tell her about this massage. I’m sure it will help 🙂

    Thank you!!!

  17. Interesting blog, the techniques seem easy to maneuver and I like to learn about different methods to help with different diseases. I personally do not know anyone with cystic Fibrosis but I am glad I learned these techniques. Thanks for the blog

  18. I have to try this techniques on someone but I don’t know anyone with cystic fibrosis. I have to look this up some more and see if it works on people with C.o.P.D. because my papa has it and maybe that will help him.

  19. Loved this information. Will be great for reference for future clients with this condition. Would love to see it demonstrated in class. Although, some of those positions look uncomfortable.

  20. I was super intrigued by this blog. While the focus was cystic fibrosis, I am excited to have skills that can help with various lung conditions. Great work!!!

  21. My son doesn’t have cystic fibrosis but suffers as asthma and allergy’s. Always has ear infections also. He was born with eczema which they told me he would out out grow. He is now 11. The doctor had said with eczema the above could occur which have. Being the baby of the family, my child hates blowing his nose so of course the mucus just builds up in chest. The inhaler works, but do to the fact that I am separated from my son, am more than happy to pass the info to his father…..hopefully he will use it. I hope this will work on this particular problem also, we are both tired of the ER visits, which they often give breath treatments, for upper respiratory infections.

  22. I find this to be helpful for people that are congested and having problems breathing. My daughter has been congested lately I tried this on her and it seemed to help a lot.

  23. Great blog! I love hearing new ways that massage can help with different diseases. It seems like it is a good way to help with chest congestion in general. This will be very helpful during cold and flu season as well.