Pulmonary Rehabilitation – What To Expect

If your doctor recommends pulmonary rehabilitation, you will receive care from a team of healthcare providers, who will design a plan that fits your needs based on the health of your lungs, your age, and other health factors. After your program ends, your team will assess your lung function again to see if your breathing has improved.

 

Before pulmonary rehabilitation

Your healthcare team will include doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, physical and occupational therapists, dietitians or nutritionists, and psychologists or social workers.

To help design your pulmonary rehabilitation plan, your healthcare team may do one of the following tests:

  • Exercise stress test to measure your oxygen level, blood pressure, and heart rate while you exercise
  • Pulmonary function tests to check your breathing
  • Six-minute walk test to measure how far you can walk in six minutes

During pulmonary rehabilitation

Your pulmonary rehabilitation plan may include one or more of the following:

  • Breathing techniques. You may learn specific techniques such as pursed-lip breathing, yoga breathing, or breathing with computer-aided feedback. With these techniques, you can better control your breathing and avoid feeling out of breath, especially when you are physically active or under stress. You may also learn ways to help clear mucus from your lungs.
  • Education. In group or individual sessions, your providers can answer questions about your lung disease and offer guidance for how to manage it. You may learn How the Lungs Work and effective ways to take your medicines. You may learn to recognize the signs of a flare-up early and develop a plan to avoid or manage one. If you smoke, your team may be able to help you quit. You may learn how to conserve your energy and avoid feeling short of breath by finding easier ways to do daily tasks. This may include ways to avoid reaching, lifting, and bending, or ways to avoid or relieve stress.
  • Psychological counseling. People who have chronic lung disease may also experience depression, anxiety, and other emotional problems. Individual or group support can offer training in stress management.
  • Exercise training. Exercise training aims to strengthen your back, arms, and legs, as well as the muscles you use to breathe. Training can also help you build stamina and flexibility, making it easier to do everyday tasks and the things you enjoy. Your healthcare team may recommend using medicine to open your airways or adjusting your regular oxygen therapy during physical activity.
  • Nutritional counseling. You will learn what foods to eat and how to prepare meals to manage your condition and feel your best. Nutritional counseling can help ensure that you are getting the right nutrients in the proper amounts. A dietitian may also recommend a weight-loss plan or nutritional supplements or medicines to help you build muscle.

After pulmonary rehabilitation

Usually, pulmonary rehabilitation is a series of two or three weekly sessions lasting several weeks or months. At the end of your program, your healthcare team will give you tests to assess your lung function again to see if your breathing has improved. Some of these tests, such as exercise tests, will be the same ones you had at the start of your program.