Cough, cough, cough!!!

  • Having just returned from the UK with the inevitable cough and cold I was reminded of the research one of my Ph.D students undertook back in 2016. Sarah (now Dr Chamberlain-Mitchell) investigated the effect of physiotherapy treatment for people with chronic cough. You might think that coughs tend to be short lived and will go away with time, however, that´s not so in all cases. Unfortunately, many people suffer from what is known as Chronic Refractory Cough which means they can have troublesome cough symptoms for months and even years.  Chronic cough is a real problem significantly affecting quality of life. Imagine trying to go to the cinema or getting a decent night´s sleep when you´re coughing all the time? For many people it´s often worse during talking or laughing so it can really limit enjoyment. But what can be especially difficult to cope with is that in up to 42% of cases, despite extensive investigations and treatments trials, the cause of cough remains unexplained.

    But here´s the good news. Sarah found that a combination of physiotherapy breathing exercises and speech and language therapy effectively reduced the frequency of cough, the urge to cough and even improved quality of life. This study was carried out in 76 subjects and was a randomised controlled trial meaning there was a placebo arm too. So the results, which were pretty positive in favour of treatment can be believed. The treatment was provided over a 4-week period and can be offered at local clinics or in the patient´s home. 

    There are many different theories as to why some people develop chronic cough but the truth is we don´t fully understand it yet. One idea however, is that the receptors in the brain that detect cough signals from the throat and pharynx become hypersensitive meaning even small triggers can cause a cough. One aspect of treatment then is to teach people techniques that will hopefully, in the long term, reduce this hypersensitivity. However, cough is an important protective mechanism and there are many reasons for cough, from flu, to asthma, or other diseases, so it is essential that medical tests are performed to rule out any other cause before physiotherapy begins.

    If you think you might need help with chronic cough, please get in touch and I can advise you regarding the necessary steps. There is hope I promise!

    +34 652 281 122