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Pulmonary Rehabilitation

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jun 6, 2022.

What is pulmonary rehabilitation (rehab)?

  • Pulmonary rehab is a program for people with chronic lung conditions. Examples include COPD and cystic fibrosis. Pulmonary rehab may also be done before and after lung surgery. You may need it if you have a condition that affects your breathing muscles, such as muscular dystrophy.
  • You will have pulmonary rehab along with medical treatments. The pulmonary rehab team may include doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, dietitians, and social workers. You may also work with physical and occupational therapists, and psychologists. Your team will teach you how to function better at home. Pulmonary rehab is usually 3 times per week for a few months.

What are the benefits of pulmonary rehab?

  • Increased ability to care for yourself
  • Increased strength, function, and endurance
  • Better control of symptoms
  • Decreased hospital admissions and visits to the emergency department
  • Increased quality of life

What should I expect during pulmonary rehab?

Your pulmonary rehab team will evaluate your needs during your first visit. The team will make a specific plan for your needs. Your plan may include any of the following:

  • An exercise plan will help improve your endurance and muscle strength. You may have short sessions with time for rest in between. You might use a treadmill, stationary bike, or weights. Your oxygen levels may be checked during exercise.
  • Nutritional counseling may be needed if you weigh too much or too little. Both conditions can cause problems with your breathing. A dietitian will work with you to plan healthy meals.
  • Education about your condition may include medicines, oxygen therapy, and how to stop smoking. You will learn how to manage symptoms. Your team will help you plan what to do if your symptoms get worse. You will learn when to contact your healthcare provider or go to the emergency department.
  • You will learn how to save your energy. This will make breathing easier. You will learn how to reduce stress. Stress can make you short of breath.
  • Exercises such as pursed-lip breathing can help you improve your breathing. Pursed-lip breathing helps keep your airways open longer and allows more air to flow through your lungs. Breathing strategies can also help loosen and remove secretions.
  • Counseling and support groups can help you cope with depression and anxiety that may occur with your condition.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.