Breathe Easier with Pulmonary Rehab
Pulmonary rehabilitation can help people with chronic lung disease live more fully and comfortably.

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Breathe Easier with Pulmonary Rehab

Is it hard to do ordinary activities without feeling winded? Does shortness of breath get the best of you? Pulmonary rehabilitation may help - so you can attend that wedding or ball game with more ease.

What is it?
Pulmonary rehab is a program that helps people with chronic breathing problems who are in stable condition. It can address medical, educational, fitness and lifestyle issues. With this type of program, a team of providers design a program based on your needs. The team may include a doctor, nurse, respiratory therapist, dietitian and other professionals. These programs usually are given in a group setting.

How can it help?
Pulmonary rehab may be recommended as part of treatment, in addition to the medications prescribed by your doctor. It requires a commitment from you - to follow your plan at home and work with your team. The good news is that you don't have to do it alone!

A program tailored to your needs may help you:

  • Reduce shortness of breath and fatigue
  • Build strength
  • Improve your emotional well-being and quality of life
  • Improve your ability to do physical activities
  • Decrease hospital stays and use of health care resources

After rehab, you may find you are able to do more for yourself at home. You may be able to return to work or get back to doing an activity you once had to give up.

Who can it help?
Rehab helps many people manage symptoms and lead a more active life. During the program, you'll learn more about your disease, treatment options and ways to cope. Rehab may help if you have:

  • Emphysema
  • Asthma
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Pulmonary fibrosis
  • Sarcoidosis
  • A chest wall disease
  • Lung cancer
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Other chronic lung conditions

More about program benefits
A pulmonary rehab program may include:

  • Medical management
  • Education and self-care tips
  • Exercise
  • Breathing retraining
  • Techniques to relax
  • Emotional and social support
  • Strategies to control stress
  • Nutrition guidance
  • Smoking cessation

Many people with lung disease are not active or in good physical shape. So, exercise is usually an important part of the program. Use of a treadmill or stationary bike, stretching, strength training and upper and lower body exercise may be included.

Catch your breath
Pulmonary rehab can help you live more comfortably and get the most out of life. According to the Global Initiative for COPD, a program should be at least 6 weeks to be effective. An effective program can lead to major improvements in quality of life, strength and endurance. It can help reduce anxiety and depression levels, too.

Without ongoing exercise and lifestyle changes, though, these improvements may not last. The rehab team will provide a long-term maintenance plan. Many people find that feeling more vibrant and being able to do more is motivation to keep up the routine.

A referral may be required from your doctor for pulmonary rehab. Before you make an appointment, contact your health insurance provider to make sure your visit will be covered. Talk to your doctor about whether this type of program is right for you. If you smoke, you may also have to quit before you start. Other programs can help you stop smoking during rehab.

By Eve Glicksman, Contributing Writer
Created on 07/29/2008
Updated on 01/14/2013
  • American Lung Association. Pulmonary rehabilitation.
  • GOLD Global Initiative for COPD.
  • National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. What is pulmonary rehabilitation?
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