Like physical rehabilitation therapies strengthen muscles and bones, pulmonary rehabilitation bolsters the lungs. It helps restore lung function in patients with respiratory conditions or chronic breathing problems. For people with pulmonary fibrosis (PF), it address the ongoing symptom of breathlessness and is very important before and after lung transplant.
The therapy includes lung exercise training, nutritional counseling, education about PF, energy-conserving techniques, breathing strategies, psychological counseling, and group support.
Pulmonary rehabilitation is typically a medium- to long-term commitment for patients. It becomes a part of their ongoing therapeutic program. The patient’s entire health team plays a role in monitoring and administering “respiratory rehab.” Respiratory therapists, physical and occupational therapists, dietitians or nutritionists, and even psychologists or social workers confer with primary care physicians and pulmonary specialists to ensure that a patient stays on-track with therapeutic objectives. Usually the rehabilitation is administered on an outpatient basis, but it can sometimes take place at the patient’s home.
Benefits of pulmonary rehabilitation for PF patients
Pulmonary rehabilitation can lead to significant improvements in overall health, including an obvious ability to breathe easier. The therapy is helpful in every stage of pulmonary fibrosis.
According to research from the National Jewish Medical and Research Center, key physical improvements include increased breathing capacity and gas exchange. The report, “Pulmonary rehabilitation in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis: A call for continued investigation,” noted that patients also experience improvements in dyspnea (labored breathing), anxiety, mood, fatigue, and quality of life.
“Early data suggest that PR [pulmonary rehabitation] might improve certain important outcomes in patients with IPF; for example, in pilot studies, PR lengthened distance walked during a 6MWT (i.e., 6MWD) or 12-min walk test, and decreased dyspnea (e.g., as measured by the Borg scale at the end of a 6-min walk test). Deficient in the literature are systematic studies that have examined PR in patients with IPF, but it appears as though interest in this intervention for IPF is growing,” the study authors wrote.
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