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Understanding Pulmonary Rehabilitation

Pulmonary rehabilitation (or “rehab”) is a term that covers many different approaches. The goals are to decrease the severity of breathlessness as much as possible during daily activity and to increase energy and exercise levels in general. Pulmonary rehab is recommended for people with interstitial lung disease (ILD). Your healthcare provider can help you decide if pulmonary rehab is a good option for you.

Trina Limberg

“If pulmonary rehab has not been recommended or discussed with your physician, you may want to ask your physician about the therapy. It is extremely important to participate in pulmonary rehab if recommended by your doctor.”
Trina Limberg, Director of Pulmonary Rehabilitation at UC SD Medical Center

Pulmonary rehab includes activities such as physical conditioning, exercise training, and breathing exercises. It may also include anxiety, stress, and depression management, as well as nutritional counseling, education, and other programs.

Christine Garvey

“Your rehabilitation therapist will be able to help you figure out a solution that works best for you, as well as answer any questions you may have.”
Chris Garvey, FNP, MSN, MPA, MAACVPR University of California San Francisco

The Possible Benefits of Pulmonary Rehab

Benefits may include:

  • Improved breathlessness
  • Increased ability to exercise
  • Improved sense of well-being, and a more positive outlook
  • Reduced anxiety and depression

Pulmonary rehab has been shown to be safe in people with ILD. There are some risks associated with pulmonary rehab that are generally related to the exercise part of the program. As with any physical training activity, there may be a very slight increase in muscle soreness. Also, physical activity can increase the risk of chest pain or arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat). Working in collaboration, your rehab specialist and your healthcare provider will determine how much additional oxygen you may need as your exercise program is developed.

Although leading medical guidelines recommend that most people with ILD receive pulmonary rehab, it may not be right for everyone. You should discuss the option of pulmonary rehab with your healthcare provider to see if your condition warrants it, if it is safe for you to participate, and if it might benefit you.

A Team Effort

If your healthcare provider prescribes pulmonary rehab, you should know it involves working with a team of healthcare providers. This team may include nurses, respiratory therapists, exercise physiologists, physical therapists, social workers, dietitians, and others. It may also include several exercises and lifestyle changes at home. Working closely with your healthcare team will help you to know what is expected of you.

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