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Pulmonary rehabilitation for
COPD combines different treatments to:
Pulmonary rehabilitation—"rehab" for short— will
not reverse the damage to your lungs from COPD. But it
will help you do your daily tasks, such as dressing, grocery shopping, and
walking, more easily.
There are many different kinds of pulmonary
rehab programs. Some are done in the hospital. Some are done at home.1
Health professionals who may be involved with these programs
Pulmonary rehab is
usually supervised and structured. This means that it will include evaluation
of your symptoms and treatment, short-term and long-term goals, education,
support, and supervised therapy programs.
Evaluation and goals
Your rehab team will look at
your symptoms and current treatment to make sure that you can get the most out
of the program. They also will identify other concerns, such as heart problems,
that might affect your ability to exercise and to perform daily tasks.
Then you and your team will set short-term and long-term goals to meet
your specific needs. For instance:
Understanding COPD—how it progresses and is best treated—makes it easier
to live with and manage the disease. Rehab programs generally include education
for both you and your family about:
encouragement from friends, family, and your health team are crucial in helping
you stay with your rehab plan.
Supervised therapy programs
Therapy programs are the heart of pulmonary rehab. They are created just
for you, depending on your needs and goals.
Help to quit smoking
If you still
smoke, stopping is the most important therapy program. Quitting smoking can
slow damage to your lungs. Your rehab team can help you find the right program
for quitting, whether it involves medicine, counseling, and/or support
For more information, see the topic
Exercise training for COPD often
includes aerobic exercise, such as walking or using a stationary bike, and
muscle-strengthening exercises for your arms and legs.
Always talk to your doctor before starting an exercise
program. People with COPD may also have heart problems that limit their
exercise choices. You may need medical supervision when you start the
For more information, see:
Breath training can help you take deeper breaths and reduce shortness of
breath. You must practice breath training regularly for it to work.
Three basic breath-training methods are diaphragmatic breathing,
pursed-lip breathing, and breathing while bending forward. They can be used to
help you get through periods when you feel more short of breath.
Learning to eat well
Eating well is important to keep up your strength and health. Problems
muscle weakness and weight loss happen often in severe
COPD. With COPD, people who are very underweight, especially those with
emphysema, are likely to die sooner than people who
are at a normal weight.2 For more information,
An ongoing pulmonary rehab program can
help you function better over the long term. Each program should set short-term
and long-term goals to help you keep track of changes and successes. This makes
sure that the program continues to meet your needs.
Pulmonary rehab is recommended for
people who have lung problems such as COPD.
Pulmonary rehab helps
most people who have COPD. It especially helps those who use oxygen therapy and
have often had to go to the emergency room or hospital.
A review of research shows that
taking part in pulmonary rehabilitation:3, 1
To work well, a rehab program should last at least
4 weeks. The longer the program is, the better it works.2
There is little or no risk to these programs if
they are well supervised.
The success of pulmonary rehab
relies on the relationship between you and your health team. It is important
that you work with your team, take an active role in the program, and
understand the importance of staying with your program.
this treatment can improve your daily life, it does not reverse the effects
that COPD has had on your lungs or other organs such as your heart. It does not
cure COPD. It trains your mind, muscles, and heart to get the most out of
Complete the special treatment information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this treatment.
Maltais F, et al. (2008). Effects of home-based pulmonary rehabilitation in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Annals of Internal Medicine, 149(12): 869–878.
Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease
(2010). In Global Strategy for the Diagnosis, Management, and Prevention of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Available online:
Lacasse Y, et al. (2005). Pulmonary
rehabilitation for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (2). Oxford: Update
November 29, 2011
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Ken Y. Yoneda, MD - Pulmonology
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