Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program (Overview)
What is a pulmonary rehabilitation program?
For people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), taking part in a pulmonary rehabilitation program can be very helpful. During the program, patients learn about the disease and how to manage it in the best possible way. All patients with COPD are strongly encouraged to take part in one of these programs. Healthcare providers can give patients the information about how to enroll.
What does a pulmonary rehabilitation program involve?
Each pulmonary rehabilitation program is a little different, but there are key parts that a good and complete program will cover:
- Breathing strategies
- Starting and following an exercise routine
- Nutritional counseling and weight management
- Lifestyle changes for preventing COPD flare-ups
- Creating a COPD management plan
- Preparing for emergencies
- Coping with the emotional impact of COPD
What are breathing strategies?
A key part of the program is learning special breathing strategies. These techniques can help reduce breathlessness caused by COPD and make breathing easier. Some of these strategies include:
- Pursed-lip breathing
- Abdominal breathing
- Techniques for clearing mucus from the lungs
- Ways to conserve energy
Why are exercise routines important for people with COPD?
Getting regular exercise is one of the best ways that COPD patients can improve their symptoms and manage their disease. During the pulmonary rehabilitation program, patients get advice about how to start an exercise routine and stick with it. The program helps patients design a personalized exercise routine that is safe and effective for them at their stage of disease.
What are nutritional counseling and weight management?
Nutritional counseling and weight management are important, because many patients with COPD do not have a healthy body weight or nutritious diet. Being overweight or underweight can make COPD symptoms worse. During nutritional counseling, patients learn about how to maintain a healthy weight by eating a healthy diet. They also get advice about:
How can lifestyle changes help to prevent flare-ups?
Making lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of infections can have a big impact for people living with COPD. Infections are the most common cause of COPD flare-ups, which happen when symptoms suddenly get worse. These can be harmful for people with COPD, and may even require treatment in the hospital.
Lifestyle changes that can help prevent infections and flare-ups include:
- Quitting smoking
- Avoiding allergens and irritants
- Practicing good hygiene, such as hand washing, cleaning equipment regularly, and good dental health
What is a COPD management plan?
Creating a COPD management plan is a useful way for patients to take an active role in managing their disease. There are different types of management plans, but a typical plan will include tools that can help patients to:
- Keep a record of their daily symptoms
- Organize their medications
- Prepare for emergencies
- Communicate well with healthcare providers
How can patients cope with the emotional impact of COPD?
Most people living with COPD have a range of feelings and emotions about their disease. Sometimes these emotions can be hard to cope with, and may feel overwhelming. As part of the pulmonary rehabilitation program, patients learn how to deal with these feelings in a healthy way. In many cases, they have a chance to take part in counseling or support groups to connect with other COPD patients who are working through their own similar feelings.
- 1. American Lung Association. “What is Pulmonary Rehabilitation?” Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/healthtopics/topics/pulreh/ [Accessed 3 March 2015.]