Topic Overview

People who have had a
spinal cord injury (SCI) don’t always have the
ability to cough forcefully. A forceful cough is important, because it will
help you bring up
mucus in the lungs, which can help prevent some lung
complications, such as
pneumonia.

But some people shouldn’t try assisted cough. Don’t use an assisted cough if you:

  • Are in pain.
  • Have internal problems,
    especially with the abdomen. Pushing on the abdomen could cause more
    problems.
  • Have a chest injury, such as a broken
    rib.
  • Are pregnant.
    Most specialists don’t recommend using an assisted cough for pregnant women,
    especially in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.

Assisted cough techniques

If your cough is weak, and if it is difficult to bring up mucus or you
know you have lots of mucus, you need an assisted cough. In an assisted cough,
another person pushes on your chest to help you cough. An assisted cough is
done while you are sitting up in a bed or chair. If you are in a wheelchair, be
sure to put the brakes on.

  • Your caregiver places the heel of one hand on
    your abdomen just above your navel and places the other hand on top of the
    first hand. He or she interlocks the fingers so that they are pulled away from
    the body.
  • The caregiver keeps his or her elbows
    straight.
  • You take a deep breath and hold it.
  • You
    cough while your caregiver pushes upward and under the rib cage, one time. It
    may take practice to coordinate the cough with the motion.

See a picture of this type of
assisted cough.

Another technique may be used if the first one doesn’t work or if
you are
obese.

  • Your caregiver places his or her hands on the
    lower part of the rib cage, with the fingers wrapping around your sides
    pointing toward the back and the thumbs pointing inward, toward the center of
    the chest.
  • You take a deep breath and hold it.
  • You
    cough while the caregiver squeezes the ribs up and in. It may take practice to
    coordinate the cough with the motion.

See a picture of this other type of
assisted cough.

If you have enough arm strength, you may be able to help yourself
cough:

  • Wrap both arms around your abdomen just below the
    rib cage.
  • Take a deep breath, and hold it.
  • Cough and
    throw your upper body forward over your arms while hugging your abdomen.

See a picture of a
self-assisted cough.

Related Information

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD – Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Nancy Greenwald, MD – Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

Current as ofOctober 9, 2017