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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.

Nutrition

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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Support Groups: What You Need to Know

These days you hear a lot about support groups for all sorts of situations and conditions, but what makes them so special? How are they helpful? And how do you find one that fits my needs? All great questions. Here’s a quick primer.

How do support groups work?

Finding others who are in similar situations - whether it be dealing with an illness, undergoing a surgical procedure, managing on-going treatment, or starting a rehabilitation program - can reduce stress and anxiety associated with the unknown. Support groups provide opportunities for participants to ask questions, share their concerns, and talk to people who truly understand their position and perspective far better than most. In addition to a greater level of understanding by those who’ve been there, support groups also communicate an important message: you are not alone. Another bonus of support groups is that members can provide helpful tips and advice on what to expect. Plus, they can offer reassurance based on personal experience. Sometimes just hearing “yes, that’s normal” from one who has been there can be extremely comforting.

What are some types of support groups?

There are support groups for people diagnosed with a specific type of cancer; new mothers and breastfeeding; children and teens undergoing treatment of an illness or other challenges, and for patients who are recovering from heart, brain, orthopedic, or reconstructive surgery. Rehabilitative-related support groups are available to people working to regain mobility after an injury or stroke.  There are also support groups for those who are preparing for procedures. 

What about support for family members?

Not only is it important for those experiencing life-changing events to find help and support, their support system can also benefit. Parents, spouses, caregivers, and others who share in the responsibility of another person can feel overwhelmed or experience higher than normal amounts of stress at times. Navigating available resources and decision-making for a loved one can be daunting as well. So having an opportunity to discuss their feelings with peers can help family members and others closely involved learn to cope with added pressure during difficult times. Besides learning best practices to successfully manage their family’s situation, they are also reminded and encouraged to care for themselves. 

How do I find a support group?

Whatever condition or special need that life presents, there’s more than likely a support group for it. So if you or someone you know is facing some new challenges or considering a procedure and wants to discuss it, consider a supportive option. Like minds understand and are there for you, so no one has to go it alone.