Physical Therapy for COPD

Using Physical Therapy to Manage COPD

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) reduces the strength people have and also diminishes their quality of life. Typically, doctors prescribe medications to slow the progression of the disease and help people manage its symptoms. They also emphasize smoking cessation. In addition, COPD patients can undergo different forms of therapy and counseling to improve their day-to-day functioning and quality of life. Physical therapy is one form of treatment that COPD patients should investigate.

The purpose of physical therapy for COPD

The goal of physical therapy is to help people with COPD manage their illness. Ideally, therapy will prevent frequent hospitalizations. It will also keep patients functioning independently for as long as possible. Physical therapy allows patients to maintain mobility and prevents them from becoming bedridden for as long as possible..

Physical therapy eases shortness of breath and increases the capacity of the muscles to work with less oxygen. It also improves people's balance, which is often weakened in the course of the disease. Furthermore, physical therapy will keep patients in better health by mitigating other conditions, such as osteoporosis and hypertension, which often affect people with COPD.

Where can you receive physical therapy for COPD?

Physical therapists often work with patients independently. You can meet with a therapist at your home or at a clinic or private office. When searching for a physical therapist, look into each therapist's experience with COPD patients.

Another possibility is to work with a physical therapist as part of a broader pulmonary rehabilitation program. In this type of program, a group of healthcare professionals work with COPD patients to improve their quality of life in multiple respects. A nutritionist helps them with their diet; a counselor gives them advice on lowering stress and coping emotionally with the disease; and a physical therapist trains their muscles and breathing.

Typical physical therapy techniques

  • To stay active with less oxygen intake, you will work with a therapist to strengthen the muscles you use for walking and other physical activities.
  • You will work on inspiratory muscle training, which specifically targets the muscles you use during inhalation.
  • Physical therapists can also work with you on breathing more efficiently during different physical activities. Pursed lip breathing is one exhalation technique that helps with shortness of breath.
  • If you are experiencing problems with your balance, a physical therapist will give you exercises that will help keep you steady and prevent falls.

Tailoring the therapy

What you work on with your physical therapist will depend on your health and other personal factors. Your physical therapist will review your medical history and assess your current fitness level. You will discuss your lifestyle choices, including diet and tobacco use. Before you start physical therapy, the therapist will also perform tests to gauge your muscle strength and mobility. Certain physical activities may give you more difficulty than others. Some activities may soothe your COPD symptoms, and others may exacerbate them. Your physical therapist will need all of this information to determine the best course of therapy.

Do not hesitate to seek physical therapy. Start by getting recommendations from your doctor and other healthcare professionals. You do not need to resign yourself to a life of constant fatigue and immobility.