Expert Answers: Pulmonary Rehabilitation

In dealing with COPD, it might be recommended that you participate in pulmonary rehabilitation. Many people have questions about what pulmonary rehab is, and why a person should participate in it, so we asked our expert respiratory therapists John, Leon, and Lyn this question, on behalf of the community:

My doctor wants me to do pulmonary rehab. Why should I do this? What are the benefits?

Response from John
The #1 goal of any COPD treatment program is to help you live an independent and functioning lifestyle. Pulmonary rehabilitation can help you with many aspects of such a program. It includes exercise, conditioning, physical therapy and nutrition therapy to help you keep up your strength. It provides education for you and your family, such as how to use your inhalers and oxygen therapy. The best part is you will meet friends (both professional and people living with it just like you) who can give you the moral support you need to live well with it.

Response from Leon
If you’ve been diagnosed with COPD, your physician will most likely suggest and prescribe that you attend a pulmonary rehabilitation program. When you begin a rehab program, your team will assess your abilities and needs and lay out a program that’s individualized for you at your level of health. This may include education, nutrition, exercise (as appropriate), breathing strategies, energy conservation techniques and even counseling.

You should look forward to participating in a pulmonary rehab program as it provides benefits that will help you to deal with COPD and feel better. First and foremost, learning about the condition can help you and your family function with it in a positive way. Meeting other people with COPD enables you to gain valuable insight into their experiences with the disease.

In rehabilitation you will learn how to breathe (yes, there are breathing techniques and strategies!), increase your ability to exercise (if suitable), become aware of healthier ways to eat (nutrition), develop relaxation skills, and avoid triggers that may precipitate the worsening of symptoms.

Response from Lyn
The biggest benefit of pulmonary rehab (PR) is the improvement you’ll see in the overall quality of your daily life; sometimes referred to as Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s). You should notice a lessening of shortness of breath, an ability to walk longer distances without needing to rest, and by the end of the program an improvement in lung function tests. Each person is unique, so there will be variations in the degree of improvement. One of the most positive results we hear from patients who have participated in a PR program is the reduction in emotional anxiety related to their disease. The disease management strategies learned during PR does much to lessen anxiety and teach skills to deal with COPD in everyday life. You’ll form a kinship with others coping with COPD which helps to minimize the feeling of isolation in dealing with your illness.

How about you? What’s your experience with pulmonary rehab? Please share with us in the comments! 

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