Let's Talk Pulmonary Rehabilitation
The most cost-effective way for all health organizations to improve the health of those with a chronic lung condition is pulmonary rehabilitation. This simple program not only leads to a more fulfilling life for many with COPD but also lowers the death toll from this disabling illness too. Be assured. Doing nothing but sitting in a chair watching the television with a remote control is a sure-fire route to a disability, and early death.
I have been on a six week pulmonary rehabilitation course, and through my volunteer work with my local health organization, still remain in contact, and friends, with the physiotherapists that are at the forefront of improving our lives. With this in mind, I was asked several questions about my experience.
What was going through your mind when you started considering pulmonary rehab?
I knew Pulmonary Rehabilitation would be good for me and had heard so much from others about the benefits of doing the course. But I was a little nervous about a physiotherapist. I knew the saying: No pain. No gain. But how much pain would I have to endure? I asked myself. Would I be bullied into doing what I felt I was unable to?
Often we feel better going at our own pace, as after all - when you can't breathe, nothing else matters. In the end, it was the potential benefit that led me to enroll in pulmonary rehabilitation. I felt there was nothing to lose. But plenty to gain.
What concerns, if any, did you have on your first day?
There really were no reasons for concern. Not even any pain or more breathlessness than usual. On the first day the group were seated while it was explained what the program involved. That we would learn how our respiratory system works. Why it is so very important to exercise, and most importantly how to exercise safely. The sessions were divided into half each session seated learning what we need to do, and what the benefits would be, with the rest in the gym. We were told that should we feel we need to stop and take a break at any time it was OK to do so. Much to my, and others relief.
Once you started, were those concerns allayed? Why's that?
There were two physiotherapists looking after a small group of twelve. Exercises involved treadmill, exercise cycle, small weight lifts, rising from a chair, short steps, a chest band expander, and others. But each exercise was limited to how many we were allowed to do. For instance, it might be five minutes on the cycle, and only twelve movements of the chest expander. Although these could be increased as our stamina grew. Blood oxygen saturation was checked on occasions for our safety, and if too low was asked to stop until saturation levels rose again. If we felt any exercise was too hard we were allowed to do only one or two at most of that exercise.
It was amazing how over the six weeks I was on the course I became used to, and able to do more, of each routine. Although like most I did find one routine that was harder for me than the rest.
What would you say is the biggest benefit you gained from pulmonary rehab?
Confidence in my abilities. We were equipped to be more aware of our illness, and how to deal with any problems we might meet. Most importantly, it was explained why exercise of any kind is so effective in helping us to breathe better. I never knew we had respiratory muscles that help us to breathe for instance. I came away from my course with a good knowledge of what I need do to keep active - and as well as possible.
Members of the group were all affected to a varying degree by COPD. Some being in very poor shape and hardly able to walk. After six weeks everyone on the course had improved in both mobility and confidence. Not one said they had gained nothing from it.
What's one thing you'd say to someone with COPD who's considering pulmonary rehab?
Do yourself a favor and grab the opportunity with both hands. You will not only improve your health but your life too. Our bodies are simply not made to not move. And move them we must. Sure it is easy when we find it hard to breathe to think of the easy way out. To sit and do nothing. We are not breathless doing nothing. Right. But sit for long enough and we will deteriorate to the point of getting breathless doing nothing. And this really is the start of the end. You will learn at pulmonary rehabilitation that being breathless while moving is not dangerous.
Many who have entered pulmonary rehabilitation have gone from only being able to take very few steps to being able to take many more with relative ease. To enjoying time with their families once again. Don't let being on oxygen put you off either. Several on our course used oxygen during their exercise routines and benefited enormously from the course.
Pulmonary rehabilitation worked for me. And if you, like me, suffer a lung condition – it could for you too.
The program itself will vary from state to state, and country too. But be assured whatever program your Pulmonary Rehab takes it will offer you the best way to cope with your illness, knowledge to gain fitness, how to breathe easier, and offer a self management plan.
How has your experience been navigating the healthcare system as someone with COPD?