Pulmonary rehabilitation refers to a medical program that may help people who have lung diseases live and breathe better. The program teaches an individual exercises and breathing techniques that may improve lung function, reduce symptoms, and improve quality of life.

Lung diseases” is a general term for several different conditions that affect the lungs. As some of these conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), can make breathing difficult, a doctor may recommend pulmonary rehabilitation.

This is a program of educational classes and supervised exercise sessions that aim to help people better understand their breathing, learn to live better with their condition, and improve their strength, stamina, and endurance.

In this article, we will discuss pulmonary rehabilitation, who may require it, and how it can help.

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Pulmonary rehabilitation is a specialized exercise and education program that can help people with lung conditions, such as COPD. A course usually lasts 6–8 weeks, with 2 sessions per week lasting roughly 2 hours each.

The program aims to teach individuals to manage and live better with their specific lung conditions. It also serves as a forum to ask questions and discuss topics that arise when dealing with a chronic condition.

People learn from a group of different medical experts, which can include:

  • doctors
  • nurses
  • physical therapists
  • respiratory therapists
  • exercise specialists
  • dietitians

This group will collaborate, assisting individuals through a variety of different interventions. These can include exercise training, behavioral change therapies, and educational measures.

Some evidence suggests that 90% of those who complete a pulmonary rehabilitation program report higher activity levels or an improved quality of life. Other data suggests that more than 90% of those who finish a program spend fewer days in the hospital.

A doctor may recommend pulmonary rehabilitation to help a person breathe easier and improve their quality of life for certain lung conditions, such as COPD. This term refers to a group of conditions that cause airflow blockage and breathing-related problems. It often includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

In addition to being a treatment option for COPD, pulmonary rehabilitation may be beneficial for those with other lung conditions who experience shortness of breath frequently and cannot perform daily activities despite the use of medication.

Pulmonary rehabilitation can help people with COPD in many different ways. For instance, a 2020 scientific paper explains that the holistic nature of pulmonary rehabilitation can have positive effects, including reducing shortness of breath and improving psychological well-being. People with COPD who receive this therapy are also less dependent on hospitalization and have a greater physical capacity.

A 2018 study reaffirms these observations, noting the significant improvements in quality of life that people with COPD experience after pulmonary rehabilitation. The study authors emphasize the amount of good quality research that indicates these positive outcomes.

A pulmonary rehabilitation program also has few risks. In rare scenarios, it may be possible that physical activities could cause problems, such as injury. In these cases, the pulmonary rehabilitation team will stop the activity, give appropriate treatment, and contact a doctor.

Pulmonary rehabilitation is an effective option for treating COPD. Additionally, a 2022 paper emphasizes that pulmonary rehabilitation can help with various other lung conditions. These may include:

This form of therapy may also be helpful for people recovering from lung transplants.

However, the paper points out that pulmonary rehabilitation may be unsuitable for certain individuals, including people with severe orthopedic conditions, congestive heart failure, or severe intellectual disabilities.

Anybody with a condition that could benefit from pulmonary rehabilitation may be eligible for this treatment. Individuals in this category may wish to discuss the possibility with their doctor.

Doctors can inform people about their eligibility for treatment, which will partly depend upon whether they have a condition that makes pulmonary rehabilitation unsuitable. It also depends on whether local healthcare providers can coordinate the medical staff necessary for this treatment.

Unfortunately, some healthcare professionals tend to overlook pulmonary rehabilitation. However, there are signs this may be changing as the medical community becomes better educated about the effectiveness of this treatment.

The cost of pulmonary rehabilitation will depend on a person’s insurance coverage and their program. Medicare may cover pulmonary rehabilitation for COPD if a person meets certain requirements. The program coordinator should be able to tell an individual if they qualify and explain the potential costs.

The exact details of pulmonary rehabilitation courses will vary with an individual’s needs. However, the majority of these courses have the same basic elements. A 2022 paper lists these as follows:

  • Exercise training: This is the central element in pulmonary rehabilitation and will involve strength, endurance, and flexibility training. This will typically mean regular exercise in forms such as walking and resistance training.
  • Psychological support: Chronic respiratory diseases can significantly impact a person’s quality of life and cause or worsen psychological conditions like depression and anxiety. This treatment will involve mental health therapies, such as breathing exercises.
  • Education and diet: A number of bodily changes can arise in people with chronic respiratory problems, including weight and muscle loss. Proper dietary advice can mitigate these when they are problematic. This advice is part of a wider educational strategy in which the healthcare team informs people about the facts of their condition.

Pulmonary rehabilitation is not a short- or even medium-term intervention. The benefits of these courses can quickly disappear if the individual stops receiving the above treatments. Indeed, the goal of pulmonary rehabilitation is to induce healthy lifestyle changes.

COPD is a common and serious chronic respiratory illness. Many treatment options are available, including pulmonary rehabilitation. This describes a medical program that teaches people exercises, breathing techniques, and information about the lung condition to allow them to breathe easier and improve their quality of life.