Pulmonary rehabilitation (often referred to as “pulm rehab” for short) is an evidence-based treatment modality used to reduce symptom severity, reduce respiratory deterioration, and extend independence for as long as possible. It has been shown to be helpful and effective for people suffering from Post COVID, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD), Lung Cancer, Asthma, Tuberculosis, and Cystic Fibrosis.
What Are the Components of Pulmonary Rehabilitation?
Once evaluation has taken place, and healthcare practitioners have assessed that pulmonary rehabilitation is indeed the appropriate course of treatment, patients can expect that their programme may include some or all of the following components:
Aerobic and strength training are essential components of pulm rehab. The core exercises focus on the legs because the legs are so intimately connected to Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). Walking, spinning, and aquatherapy are often used.
Respiratory Muscle Training (RMT)
While the exercises above most certainly involve the lungs – focused training of the muscles involved in breathing (intercostals, diaphragm, and abdominals) is also a very important component of pulm rehab. This is achieved through the use of RMT training equipment.
Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation (NMES)
NMES forms part of pulm rehab programmes where symptom severity and typical exercise causes shortness of breath. The NMES therapy uses low-level electrical impulses to stimulate the muscles without straining the cardiovascular system. This is especially useful where the experience of breathlessness is associated with anxiety, stress, or panic.
The experience of breathlessness can be frightening. Depressed and anxious mood are common comorbidities in people suffering from lung disease. Obstructed breathing can interfere with relaxation and intimacy, both of which are important aspects of wellness. Counselling can help those undertaking a pulmonary rehabilitation programme to achieve better results.
Pulmonary disorders are associated with both weight loss and weight gain due to either diminished appetite or reduced activity respectively. As such, support from Dieticians can support the intake of vital nutrients. Additionally, certain types of foods such as dairy, red meat, alcohol, simple sugars, and others may be associated with increased phlegm production. That’s why a comprehensive pulmonary rehabilitation programme must include a nutritional component.
Top Tip: Avoiding foods containing sulphite preservatives (SO2 and SO3) may be helpful for those suffering from asthma. Dried fruits and wine are two of the most common sources of dietary sulphites.
Learning about breathing techniques, the importance of smoking cessation and many other things are discussed during pulm rehab. The specific strategies and educational outcomes will naturally be specific to each individual.
How Long Does Pulmonary Rehabilitation Last?
Pulmonary rehabilitation programmes typically last for the duration of 8 – 12 weeks. However, an important element of pulm rehab is to ensure that maintain the progress made during the programme through consistent and deliberate practise of the techniques learned.