What is Pulmonary Rehabilitation, and Do I Need It?

If you have shortness of breath because of lung problems, the answer is YES. Anyone with a pulmonary diagnosis and regular symptoms–coughing, sputum production, fatigue, shortness of breath at rest or with exertion–can benefit from pulmonary rehabilitation.  

Pulmonary rehabilitation is an important part of the management and health maintenance of people with a chronic lung disease who remain symptomatic or continue to have decreased function despite standard medical treatment. 

Pulmonary rehabilitation is a first line treatment in the management of various lung diseases including, but not limited to, COPD (which encompasses asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency), pulmonary fibrosis, post COVID-19 and long COVID (or post-COVID syndrome), lung cancer, pneumonia, and pulmonary hypertension.  Persons undergoing lung surgery, including a transplant, should attend pulmonary rehabilitation both pre- and post-operatively.  

What Is Pulmonary Rehabilitation?

A pulmonary rehabilitation program provides a complete assessment as well as treatment and education to give you tools to manage your symptoms with greater ease. Pulmonary rehabilitation can take place in a hospital or an outpatient setting. It involves many healthcare providers including, but not limited to, respiratory therapists, physical therapists, nurses, occupational therapists, social services and doctors. These healthcare providers work together to help improve your symptoms and assist in determining the best techniques to increase your tolerance to daily activities. 

What Do You Do in Pulmonary Rehabilitation?

Contrary to what you might believe, pulmonary rehabilitation is a lot of fun. Here are just a few of the things you may do or learn in pulmonary rehabilitation: 

  • Exercises to help improve your strength and endurance 
  • New breathing techniques that will assist in helping your lungs to function better 
  • You will learn all types of tips and tricks to minimize your symptoms like coughing and fatigue 
  • You will be given instructions on how to take your medications correctly 
  • Tips and techniques for pacing yourself and learning how to conserve energy 

Pulmonary rehabilitation is usually an 8–12-week program, and you should attend 2-3 times weekly to maximize the benefits of the treatments being provided.  

Signs of Breathing Difficulty

Do you have shortness of breath? Does it limit you in your daily activities? Are you unable to perform activities that you used to enjoy? Do you have other symptoms like coughing, fatigue or difficulty sleeping?  

All of these are signs of breathing difficulty and indicate that you could possibly benefit from a pulmonary rehabilitation program. 

How Do I Go to Pulmonary Rehabilitation?

Pulmonary rehabilitation requires a referral from a doctor. Your healthcare provider (PCP, pulmonologist, cardiologist, etc.) will determine if you qualify for pulmonary rehabilitation by evaluating your current state of health and lung function test results, discussing your current activity level and your ability to do the things you want to do, and determining your willingness and ability to attend.  

If your healthcare provider has not mentioned pulmonary rehabilitation, make sure to ask about it. It’s all too common for doctors to overlook common breathing issues. 

Once you have a referral, you will be scheduled for an initial consult. During this initial visit, you will be asked questions about your past medical history, your lung disease, and any symptoms you may be experiencing. A full examination will include looking at your range of motion, strength, endurance, and balance to best determine a plan specific to your needs.  

Do You Need Pulmonary Rehabilitation?

If you want to control your shortness of breath and fatigue, improve your understanding of your lung disease and how to manage it, increase your ability to participate in your daily activities, and improve your quality of life, you need pulmonary rehabilitation! 

Lifeline Physical Therapy offers individualized pulmonary rehabilitation services that can help improve your quality of life and overall health and wellness. Speak to your healthcare provider, or schedule an appointment today to get started.