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Active cycle of breathing technique (ACBT)

What is the active cycle of breathing technique (ACBT)?

ACBT is a breathing cycle that is made up of different elements. These different elements are:

  • Breathing control is also known as tummy breathing. For this, breathe in and out with the tummy while keeping the chest and shoulders relaxed.
  • Chest expanding exercises. These are big breaths and you want as much movement of the ribs as possible, without using the shoulders. You may be asked to do some breath holding exercises in this step.
  • Huff as if you are trying to steam up a mirror.
  • Cough.

Why do I need to do ACBT?

ACBT is a technique used in physiotherapy. ACBT could make it easier for you to cough up any secretions (spit, mucous, phlegm and so on) from your chest. It can be used as a technique on its own, or with other physiotherapy techniques. Your physiotherapist will tell you about this

What do I do?

Start by sitting down in an upright position to fill your lungs with as much air as possible.

  1. Start with some relaxed breathing for  seconds or breaths
  2. Then take  big breaths using chest expanding exercises. Move your ribs as much as possible but keep your shoulders relaxed. You can try placing your hands on your sides over your ribs. Try to push your hands away with your ribs without your shoulders lifting up.
  3. Huff. Breathe out all the air you’ve been breathing in.
  4. Repeat the above 3 steps 1 more time.
  5. Cough.

This is 1 cycle of ACBT breathing. Repeat this times.

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: CF3

Resource Type: Article

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Debbi Rowley, Helen Hughes


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