COPD Patients Encouraged to Take Advantage of Pulmonary Rehabilitation

By: Jeanette Kochman, PT, DPT, OCS

  Pulmonary rehabilitation has been clearly demonstrated to improve quality of life in individuals with COPD.  Too often, those with chronic lung disease find themselves in a downward spiral of inactivity and isolation.  The good news is, there is something out there to inhibit this downward spiral. Pulmonary rehabilitation is an evidence-based treatment approach designed to reduce symptoms (like cough, sputum, shortness of breath), optimize function, and reduce healthcare costs (ER visits, hospitalizations). A dedicated team of healthcare professionals including a medical director, physical therapists, respiratory therapists, nutritionists, and social workers work together to develop an individualized treatment plan to meet each patient’s unique needs.  Exercise training, patient education, and health enhancing behavior change are the cornerstones of pulmonary rehabilitation. The ultimate goal is to enable individuals to be active and participate in the things that are important to them.

     Pulmonary rehabilitation may be initiated at any stage of the disease.  The program is covered by most insurances.  The recommended frequency and duration is 2-3x/week for 8-12 weeks. Upon graduating from pulmonary rehabilitation, patients are encouraged to participate in a maintenance exercise program which is offered at the rehabilitation facility.  This enables graduates to maintain the gains they made during rehabilitation. In the absence of any maintenance strategy, benefits of rehabilitation diminish over 6-12 months.

     Quarterly support groups are offered for continued educational opportunities, and to promote camaraderie.  These are open to current program participants, graduates, and their friends/ families. Patients will not receive pulmonary rehabilitation unless they are referred.  Though it is the standard of care for individuals with COPD, it is grossly underutilized.  A lack of physician and patient knowledge regarding the benefits of pulmonary rehabilitation contributes to the gap between the science and benefits of pulmonary rehabilitation and the actual delivery of services. You can help bridge this gap.

     If you have COPD and want to increase your daily physical activity levels, and better understand the disease and how to manage it, talk to your doctor about a referral for pulmonary rehabilitation at Lifeline Therapy

This article originally appeared in The Western Pennsylvania Guide for Good Health (Winter 2016). Congratulations to Dr. Kochman for her publication!

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