If you suffer from chronic lung disease, you may well be advised by your physician to consider pulmonary therapy. In this article, we’ll explore the basics of pulmonary therapy and the many potential benefits it may offer you, both physically and emotionally.
What is pulmonary therapy?
Pulmonary therapy is a program of exercises, education, and support, designed for people suffering from chronic lung disorders.
According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), you may benefit from pulmonary therapy if you have:
- COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), such as emphysema or chronic bronchitis
- Interstitial lung diseases, such as sarcoidosis or idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis
- Cystic fibrosis
You may also be recommended to start pulmonary therapy before and after lung surgery.
The goal of pulmonary rehab is to improve both your quality of life and your lung health. A pulmonary therapy program is prepared specifically for each patient, taking into account their individual symptoms and circumstances.
Pulmonary rehab is delivered by a team of medical professionals, such as doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and nutritionists. Designed to work alongside medical treatment, it may be offered as an outpatient program or in a rehabilitation center.
Components of pulmonary rehabilitation
Pulmonary rehab programs vary, but most will include the following components:
Specially designed and supervised physical exercises are a core component of pulmonary therapy. The American Lung Association recommends exercise for patients with chronic lung conditions, under careful supervision:
“Because of breathing challenges, people with chronic lung disease tend to avoid exercise. However, the right amount and type of exercise has many benefits. It can improve your heart and muscle strength, increase energy levels and help you use oxygen more efficiently.”
Your exercise program may include using a treadmill, exercise bike, or weights, and will likely include training both your upper and lower body. You will be taught to exercise safely, for instance by modifying exercises to avoid becoming exhausted, using a chair when doing yoga or lifting weights, and keeping a close eye on your breathing and oxygen levels.
Breathing exercises are critical for patients with chronic lung diseases like COPD. They can help you expel the build-up of stale air in your lungs, increase your oxygen levels and improve the action of the diaphragm. Pulmonary therapists might teach you techniques like pursed-lip breathing and diaphragmatic breathing, which can be helpful when you are short of breath.
While patients may or may not continue using maintenance medication during your rehab program, it can also include help with managing these medications. Your healthcare provider should check in with you daily to make sure that you are responding well to your medication and that you are receiving the right treatment and dose. They can also advise you on how to use your inhaler, or how to get the most out of oxygen therapy.
Education is another core component of pulmonary therapy. This might include training about your particular lung disease and how it affects you, or understanding the treatment you are receiving and how it works. You might also receive guidance on topics relating to your quality of life, such as family support, lifestyle choices, and nutrition.
Benefits of pulmonary therapy
The goal of pulmonary therapy, as with any kind of rehabilitation treatment, is to improve your quality of life and minimize the impact of your medical condition on your day-to-day routine. Chronic lung disease is physically and emotionally devastating, but pulmonary rehab can help you to feel better. WebMD reports that,
“In a large analysis of some programs, nearly all people in pulmonary rehab had seen their symptoms get better. Almost all of them reported feeling less short of breath, more energetic, and more in control of their COPD.”
The key benefits of pulmonary therapy are:
- You’ll be more able to exercise.
Improving your physical fitness will have a major impact on both reducing your symptoms, and helping you cope with the symptoms that persist.
- You’ll receive psychological and emotional support.
According to WebMD, “People with severe COPD have a great chance of being depressed or anxious.” Many pulmonary rehab programs include therapy or counseling. Group exercise sessions also help provide a sense of community which can be very beneficial to your psychological well-being.
- You’ll learn how to manage your condition better.
The education and individual care you receive as part of pulmonary rehabilitation can be invaluable in helping you to take better care of yourself, physically and emotionally, as you learn to live with your condition.
How to stay motivated during pulmonary therapy
Dealing with any chronic lung condition can be severely debilitating and exhausting. You may feel depressed, anxious, tired, and physically weak. As a result, sticking with a rehab program that includes physical exercise can be daunting. Your treatment team should help to reassure you and keep you on track throughout the program. In addition, you can:
- Keep an eye on your progress
Seeing the improvements in your breathing, oxygen levels, and energy levels can be a great way to stay motivated to put 100% into your rehab program. Consider journaling how you feel each day, and keep a log of your symptoms and emotions, to help keep yourself on track.
An additional benefit of pulmonary rehab is that it may bring you into contact with other people with chronic lung disorders. Spending time with others who know exactly what you are going through can be very encouraging.
- Think about your motivations
Spend time focusing on what benefits you’ll get from pulmonary therapy, and how they might improve your quality of life. The British Lung Foundation provides a helpful worksheet to write down your motivations and goals. This may help you both during pulmonary therapy, and to help you to keep up the good work once you have completed your rehab program.
Why choose pulmonary therapy at Rehab Select?
The Rehab Select pulmonary therapy program reflects our fundamental belief that rehab treatment must put the patient first. We create a unique rehabilitation treatment for every patient we work with, designed to take your comfort and well-being into account every step of the way.
Pulmonary therapy at Rehab Select is perfect for people with chronic lung disease (or those preparing for or recovering from lung surgery) who are not well enough to go home and fend for themselves, but too well to be in a hospital ward.
Before starting pulmonary therapy, your physical therapist will guide you through a complete physical assessment, including a six-minute walk, standing and sitting, and a respiratory questionnaire. We will measure your results and track your progress as you complete your rehab program.
Using the results of your assessment, your medical history, and your own preferences, the Rehab Select Care Team will put together an individual pulmonary therapy plan for you.
We take a three-pronged approach to pulmonary rehab:
We help to improve your sense of well-being and enjoyment of life through physical therapy and exercise.
We teach you the necessary information and skills to make your daily experience better. This might include how to use your inhaler, how to breathe correctly, how your family could help support you, how to manage your condition in daily life, or how to modify your lifestyle to improve your symptoms.
- Improving Outcomes
We offer daily visits from a healthcare provider, who will check your lungs and overall health. They will keep a close eye on your medications and make sure that you are receiving the best possible treatment for your lung condition. At our Hillview location, we also have several rounding pulmonary specialists each week.
Our highly qualified staff of lung rehabilitation specialists includes in-house physicians or pulmonary physicians, pulmonary nurse practitioners, nursing staff, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, pharmacists, and nutritionists. Every healthcare provider who works with us offers a caring and compassionate approach, coupled with extensive expertise.