Improving Chronic Lung Diseases with Pulmonary Rehabilitation

Elderly patient using tri-ball spirometry to test lungs.

Elderly patient using tri-ball spirometry to test lungs.Chronic lung diseases, such as COPD and emphysema, require ongoing medical attention to help manage symptoms and improve quality of life. One treatment option is pulmonary rehabilitation. Rehabilitation is uniquely tailored for each patient, aiming to improve both psychological and physical side effects of chronic lung disease.

Pulmonary rehabilitation is not a replacement for lung surgery and other medical treatments, but it can be a key component in the management of a chronic lung condition. This treatment is most effective in moderate stages of chronic lung disease, but it can also be beneficial for people in more advanced stages of disease progression. Two thirds of patients who participate in pulmonary rehabilitation report positive outcomes.

Pulmonary rehabilitation can help:

  • Reduce symptoms
  • Increase ability to be physically active
  • Enhance daily life function
  • Improve emotional health
  • Reduce hospitalizations

What to Expect During Treatment

Pulmonary rehabilitation is a comprehensive approach that has many layers. Your health care provider will form a treatment plan that is right for you. Your treatment plan could involve:

Education – One part of treatment is education on lung diseases and management. These classes help support lasting healthy behaviors. For example, patients learn to avoid lung irritants, use medications properly, and maintain healthy behaviors daily.

Exercise – Pulmonary rehabilitation also involves exercise training, where a patient will perform exercises appropriate to their level of physical fitness. This can improve sleep quality and circulation while increasing muscle tone for better balance. The ability to walk around is an important criterion for this type of treatment.

Breathing techniques – Respiratory therapists teach patients breathing techniques, helping them to manage shortness of breath day-to-day.

Emotional support – Group support and counseling are other important parts of pulmonary rehabilitation. Patients with a chronic lung condition can experience stress, depression and anxiety. An emotional support system can help to alleviate these conditions.

Quit smoking – For patients who smoke, part of rehabilitation therapy involves counseling to help assist in the quitting process.

Most pulmonary rehabilitation programs last only a few months. Based on progress from the beginning to the end of the treatment program, a health care provider will prescribe exercises, breathing strategies and other activities to continue doing after stopping your pulmonary rehabilitation treatment.

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