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Last Updated: Jan 10, 2023

Lung Rehabilitation - How Physiotherapy Can Help?

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Xcell PhysiocarePhysiotherapist • 13 Years Exp.MSPT (Master of Physical Therapy)
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The lungs are responsible for taking in and filtering out oxygen which is then supplied to the body via circulation. They are also responsible for removing the carbon dioxide from the body. This happens through breathing, and though no effort is required, when the function is impaired, the entire body system takes a toll.

Lung function can be impaired by a multitude of issues including infections like pneumonia, chronic diseases like COPD and pulmonary hypertension, heart conditions like a congestive failure, etc. While the acute cases would go off once the infection is treated, the long-term conditions are helped by physiotherapy in addition to medications.

The lungs are made up of elastic tubules and have the ability to hold secretions. Therefore training the lungs to improve their function via exercise can help improve overall lung function. Some of the routine exercises are simple ones as below.

  1. Active breathing: The patient is taught to breathe in a more aware manner so that the lungs take in air to their maximum ability.
  2. Postural drainage: The lungs are like containers for mucus, and over a period of time, they need to be drained. Depending on where the fluid accumulation is, the patient is taught to lie in various positions so that it can be drained, allowing for instant relief.
  3. Nasal saline rinse: This helps in clearing the secretions and also the saline provides an antibacterial effect to clear off residual infection. Clearing sputum is highly critical for reducing chances of repeat infections and hospitalizations.
  4. Peripheral and respiratory muscle training: Though it goes unnoticed, breathing also involves neck and shoulder muscles and strengthening these is also essential for effective breathing.

Multiple studies have shown that physiotherapy plays a vital role in lung rehabilitation. As noted above, while the benefit may be not very evident in short-term lung impairment, it makes a significant difference in long-term and chronic conditions like COPD, pulmonary hypertension, and even congestive heart failure. Lung rehab has shown to produce the following changes:

  1. Reduce episodes of breathlessness and fatigue. A person can gradually resume his normal chores without too much assistance.
  2. Help in clearing secretions, which can worsen congestion and breathlessness.
  3. Increase overall quality of life. There could be even people who cannot do routine activities like walking to the bathroom. They could be benefitted with pulmonary rehabilitation.
  4. Reduce the number of hospitalizations due to mucus accumulation and breathlessness.
  5. Improve exercise tolerance. It is well known and proven that those who exercise on a regular basis can improve lung function over a period of time.
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