patient receiving pulmonary rehabilitation from respiratory therapist

What is Pulmonary Rehabilitation?

For those suffering from a long-term lung disease, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or pulmonary fibrosis, pulmonary rehabilitation can provide hope for rebuilding respiratory strength. 

Pulmonary rehabilitation programs are specifically designed to improve lung function, reduce symptoms and regain a more active life. If you’ve ever wished for a treatment protocol to address your or a loved one’s respiratory condition, this is the article for you.

The Basics of Pulmonary Rehabilitation

Pulmonary rehab typically involves a combination of education and exercise focused on increasing awareness about your lungs while building strength and decreasing shortness of breath.

Lung diseases cause muscles to weaken leaving those needed for breathing and moving less capable of maintaining regular function. The goal of any pulmonary rehabilitation program is to teach patients how to correctly and effectively manage their chronic lung conditions. When combined with a post-acute stay, pulmonary rehab can even reduce rehospitalizations.

Who Needs Pulmonary Rehabilitation?

When a lung disease impacts your ability to breathe easily and/or perform daily activities even with the use of medication, your medical team might recommend pulmonary rehabilitation.

Some of the chronic lung conditions that respond well to rehab treatment include:

  • COPD (emphysema and chronic bronchitis)
  • Interstitial Lung Disease (sarcoidosis and pulmonary fibrosis)
  • Lung surgery
  • Lung volume reduction before and after lung transplantation
  • Asthma
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Pulmonary hypertension

Understanding the Benefits and Risks

The upsides of pulmonary rehabilitation far outweigh the potential risks.

Throughout your treatment, you’ll likely notice the following benefits:

  • Fewer symptoms (reduced coughing, shortness of breath, tiredness)
  • Improved ability to walk and exercise
  • Less anxiety
  • Less frequent hospital visits

Some patients will experience difficulty breathing, sore muscles, and bone injury when first beginning a rehab program, but this usually resolves as exercise becomes more frequent and less laborious. The best way to keep potential side effects at bay is to work with an experienced rehab therapy team, particularly those offered in post-acute care facilities. They are highly trained providers who know exactly what to do if issues arise.

What to Expect from Pulmonary Rehabilitation

Lung capacity differs widely between patients, so your treatment program should be tailored to your specific needs. The first step of designing a plan usually includes one of the following tests:

  1. Exercise stress test – measures your oxygen level, blood pressure, and heart rate while you exercise
  2. Pulmonary function test – checks your breathing
  3. Walk test – measures the distance you can walk in six minutes

After the assessments have been completed, your team will move on to teaching and training. This is where you’ll start to put in the work and see the results. You can expect:

  • Education – You may learn about how the lungs work, how to recognize signs of a flare-up, and less strenuous ways to perform daily tasks.
  • Exercise coaching – You’ll be trained in ways to strengthen your back, arms, legs, and the muscles that you use to breathe. Exercising will not only build tone but will also give you extra stamina and improved flexibility.
  • Nutritional counseling – Learning what foods and meals are best for your condition can ensure you get the right nutrients in the proper amounts. A dietician may also suggest weight loss, nutritional supplements, or targeted medications to improve muscle mass.
  • Psychological counseling – It’s common for physical health conditions to impact mental health. Individual and group support is available to help with stress management and emotional wellness.

Pulmonary rehabilitation can last anywhere from several weeks to several months. Your healthcare team will monitor progress throughout your therapy. They’ll reevaluate your lung function and breathing to determine the right time for moving beyond acute treatment and into a long-term maintenance routine.

South Coast Post Acute Provides Top-Tier  Memory Care

South Coast Post Acute is dedicated to excellent client service to ensure effective recovery and low occurrences of rehospitalization. We are passionate about providing the highest level of care, including pulmonary and respiratory treatment, that you’ve come to expect from Southern California’s leading post-acute provider. 
As you are evaluating post-acute facilities with your doctor and loved ones, we invite you to explore the benefits of South Coast Post Acute’s innovative care, experienced staff, and welcoming accommodations. Contact us today for more information on how we can help on your journey back to restored health.

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