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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! 


  • Richard Lemmer
    2 weeks ago

    I live in Japan and have stage 3 with a 40% FEV reading. I have asked my respiratory-pulmonary doctor about a treatment plan but to no avail. I try to walk 8km every other day and stretch throughout the day. I was so depressed all summer because I could not exercise but with an additional drug, ultibro, and the decrease in humidity and temperature I’m at it again. Some days the walks take more out of me than others. In the summer I couldn’t get a block without stopping to catch my breath. How can I find a program that fits me? Thanks.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    2 weeks ago

    Hi Richard, and thanks for joining in the conversation here. I’m sorry to hear your respiratory-pulmonary doctor was not able to provide you with what you need. Are you able to seek out another physician who is more understanding, compassionate and knowledgeable about this condition?
    The availability of pulmonary rehabilitation programs can be dependent on one’s location. I’m sorry I’m not familiar with the ins and outs in Japan. Perhaps another physician, or a hospital based pulmonary medicine physicians group will be able to guide you. Alternatively, you may be able to put something together on your own by connecting a suitable physician with a personal trainer that understands your condition.
    What do you think?
    Leon (site moderator)

  • LivingwithCOPD
    9 months ago

    How can caregivers wash hair in the shower-room and prevent water from getting on face to avoid sudden short of breathless?

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    9 months ago

    Hi LivingwithCOPD and thanks for your post and expressing your concern. This is a very individual sort of situation as not everyone has an issue with water splashing on one’s face. If you do, as you seem to be saying, I can think of two different ways to avoid it. You can always wash your hair in the sink – and exert more control over what gets in your face that way. The second thought would be to face away from the shower spray and keep your face away from the water.
    I’m hopeful other community members will chime in with their personal anecdotes as well.
    Leon (site moderator)

  • Jean
    4 years ago

    While you’re all absolutely right that PR is one of the most important treatment/education mechanisms available to people with COPD, the truth is that PR programs are very few and far between in many areas and that good ones that really provide accurate, thorough information regarding the chronic disease and good instruction regarding continuing the exercise post program are even less available. Worse, most docs don’t ever recommend it to their patients even in places where there are good programs.

    One of the biggest problems we face with COPD is education for everyone: health professionals, patients and the general public.


  • Jenn Patel
    4 years ago

    Hi Jean,

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us! We really appreciate your insight, and that you have joined our community here.


    Jenn (Community Manager,

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