Living with chronic lung disease can be difficult, exhausting and frustrating. A person can gradually find themselves having a harder time just trying to get through the day. The thought of needing to get the laundry done, clean up the house or go to the store for some groceries can be tiring and stressful, especially when it has taken you all morning to get up and get dressed for the day. By now you may be feeling short of breath, exhausted or anxious knowing you have that list of things to accomplish today. Once you reach this point it becomes harder to manage the daily activities of living without getting short of breath or feeling wiped out with no energy.
Have you ever heard of Pulmonary Rehabilitation? This is a program designed to teach you how to live and breathe better so you can continue to get the most out of life. The program is combined with education and supervised exercise. During the education portion of the program you will learn about your lung disease and how to become more “in charge” of your breathing. Balancing out your daily activities, getting the best benefit out of your breathing medications and recognizing your signs and symptoms will help improve your quality of life. With the exercise portion of the program you will follow a specially designed treatment plan that has been tailored to meet your needs and help you improve your balance, stamina and flexibility in your muscles. You will have the opportunity to use exercise equipment to work on upper body and lower body strengthening, while being supervised by staff. An exercise plan doesn’t happen overnight. You will start out slowly and then safely progress as able. If you can only exercise 5 minutes at the start, that is okay. Over the course of the program you will continue to get stronger and be able to exercise longer.
A person uses a lot of upper body muscles to breathe so by improving the strength of those muscles you will be able to breathe a lot easier. You may be surprised at how much better you feel with some extra energy to get you through your day. During the program you will learn different ways to breathe and relax so when those moments do occur and you find yourself gasping for air you will be able to help yourself recover sooner.
The benefits of a Pulmonary Rehabilitation program are:
- Education about your disease
- Learning about your medication
- Reduce the feeling of air hunger with activity
- Healthy eating habits
- Building up some strength and learning to stay active
- Psychosocial support
Working with a licensed Respiratory Therapist can be beneficial in learning more about your lung disease and how it can affect your daily living. Included in the Pulmonary Rehabilitation program are education sessions on nutrition with a Dietitian, learning about your medications from a Pharmacist, as well as your work with a Respiratory Therapist covering a variety of topics such as energy conservation, breathing retraining, staying healthy and preventing infection, sleep apnea, oxygen therapy and emotional/social well-being.
Learning how to plan ahead, prioritize your efforts, position yourself and pace yourself can help so much with your daily activities. You may be surprised to know that sometimes rearranging your kitchen cupboards can make meal planning easier or thinking ahead to getting ready for the day can make you less short of breath. Working on different ways to breathe better can also help with everyday activity such as climbing stairs, lifting and carrying objects, sitting and standing from a chair or pushing and pulling a broom or vacuum cleaner.
Windom Area Health offers Pulmonary Rehabilitation with flexible schedules that can be tailored to you. To learn more about Pulmonary Rehabilitation, speak to your primary care provider, or go to our Respiratory Care page. If you have questions, feel free to call our Respiratory Therapist at Windom Area Health at 507-831-0647.
By Rhonda Wahl, RRT, Respiratory Therapy Coordinator