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Pulmonary Rehabilitation

Breathing comes naturally for most people, but those with chronic lung disease may struggle with every breath. Chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases such as asthma, chronic bronchitis or emphysema affect more than 12 million Americans and are the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. Treatment for the condition often includes pulmonary rehabilitation to help patients control symptoms and improve their quality of life. A pulmonary rehab program also may benefit patients needing lung transplants or other lung surgeries and those suffering from other lung conditions, including cystic fibrosis, bronchiectasis, abnormalities of the thoracic cage and neuromuscular disorders.

Pulmonary rehab usually lasts eight to 12 weeks. It may involve several components, including exercise training, psychosocial support, educational programs and nutrition counseling. Pulmonary rehab is a team effort in which patients may work with physicians, nurses, respiratory, physical and occupational therapists, psychologists, exercise specialists and dietitians. The primary goals of a pulmonary rehab program are to help patients feel more comfortable so they can better handle day-to-day activities and maintain their independence. As an additional benefit, pulmonary rehab also may reduce the need for hospital visits.

Pulmonary Exercise

The exercise portion of the program is designed to improve heart and lung function and strengthen muscles involved in breathing. Lower body training, such as walking or riding a stationary bicycle, can help increase muscle tone and flexibility so it is easier for patients to move around. Upper body training can help strengthen the arm and shoulder muscles that support the ribcage to allow for easier breathing. These exercises also help patients manage daily activities, such as making a bed, carrying groceries or combing hair. Ventilatory muscle training may be recommended for some patients who have weak respiratory muscles that cause breathing problems and impede exercise.

Psychosocial Support

Psychosocial support helps patients deal with emotional stress that may be associated with chronic lung disease. Some patients could become depressed or anxious about their health and have growing concerns about body image, loneliness, low self-esteem, lack of social support or relationships with others. Patients may be taught relaxation skills or encouraged to talk about their feelings to help deal with these issues.

Pulmonary Educational Programs

Educational programs for pulmonary rehab can cover a variety of topics. Information may range from breathing retraining and strategies for managing breathing problems, to how the lungs work and how to travel with lung disease. Patients can learn through one-on-one instruction, group classes, written materials or audio/visual aides. Educational sessions and counseling also may be available to help patients stop smoking.


Information about nutrition is typically given to pulmonary rehab patients because fatigue, difficulty swallowing or poor appetite could hinder their ability to follow a balanced diet. Nutritional counseling also helps with weight management and teaches patients how to prepare and time meals so they do not experience increased shortness of breath. For more information about pulmonary rehabilitation and how it can benefit you, talk with your doctor or call 561-637-5318 for a free referral to a physician near you.

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How Physical Therapy Is Key to Healing

Some form of what we now call physical therapy has existed for hundreds of years, with good reason. Physical therapy (PT) can be crucial in total body healing and mobility, as well as part of a rehabilitation plan before and after surgery. PT may be recommended to heal musculoskeletal injuries (with or without surgery) and to treat other medical conditions such as:

  • Fractures
  • Sprains
  • Tendonitis
  • Bursitis
  • Chronic medical problems
  • Rehabilitation or recovery from orthopedic surgery

How Physical Therapy Helps

  • Many people benefit from physical therapy. Physical therapy is used to treat people of all ages, with conditions resulting from sports injuries, injuries from accidents, mobility challenges in the elderly, as well as chronic conditions and developmental challenges in children. Like the name implies, physical therapy is very hands-on, hard work for the patient. Consistency and commitment is key to its success.
  • Physical therapy combines many components in a good plan. This could include any combination of: exercise therapy, manual therapy, wound care and outpatient care. Be sure you talk with your physical therapist and let them know your goals and any frustrations with your progress. They are there to help you and make sure you are getting proper treatment, so they need to know everything you’re going through.
  • Each session of physical therapy is an important extension of surgery and recovery. When followed properly, you can expect a list of positive outcomes. No two physical therapy sessions are alike, but you can generally expect one to last 30–60 minutes from one to many times a week, depending on why and what stage of healing you’re receiving therapy. As you progress well, your visits may change in length and frequency. You'll learn techniques to help continue your healing at home.

Three Successful Physical Therapy Outcomes

  1. Reduced or eliminated pain. Physical therapy involves therapeutic exercises as well as manual therapy techniques such as joint and soft tissue mobilization and treatments.
  2. Avoiding surgery. If physical therapy helps you eliminate pain or heal from an injury, surgery may not be needed. However, even if surgery is your only option, going into a surgery stronger and in better shape could result in faster recovery time.
  3. Increased mobility. Physical therapy helps you learn how to regain your independence, even if that means learning how to walk with temporary assistance, such as with a cane or walker. The goal is to get you moving and work on the best possible outcome for your injury, age and lifestyle.

Just like you and your injury, every physical therapy plan is different. Just remember to be patient and give it the time it needs.