Pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) is made up of:
- a physical exercise programme, designed for people with lung conditions and tailored for you
- information on looking after your body and your lungs, and advice on managing your condition and your symptoms, including feeling short of breath
It’s designed for people who are severely breathless. Your Hartlepool PR team will be made up of trained health care professionals such as physiotherapists, nurses and health care assistants.
You’ll be in a group of about 8-10 people. A course lasts six weeks, with two sessions per week lasting about one and a half to two hours. PR courses are held in Hartlepool hospital or the college of further education.
Completing a course of PR is a good way to learn how to exercise safely and at the right level for you. Most people enjoy the course. It builds confidence and its great fun meeting others in a similar situation
- improve your muscle strength so you can use the oxygen you breathe more efficiently
- help you cope better with feeling out of breath
- improve your fitness so you feel more confident to do things
- help you feel better mentally
It helps you manage your condition and makes you feel better, but it’s not a cure. What it can do is help you make the most of the lung function that you have. There’s evidence that it improves your ability to walk further, helps you feel less tired and breathless doing day-to-day activities and reduces your risk of ending up in hospital
It is aimed at people with a lung condition whose ability to be active is affected by breathing difficulties.
Most people who go to PR have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), but people with other long-term lung conditions can also benefit, such as bronchiectasis and pulmonary fibrosis. It’s recommended for people coming out of hospital after a COPD flare-up. This should occur around eight weeks after discharge
If you struggle with walking, have uncontrolled heart problems or have recently had a heart attack, PR might not be suitable for you at the moment. Also a pulmonary embolus (clot in the lung) or uncontrolled blood pressure would not be suitable.
A typical PR course will always start with an assessment of your health and abilities. Your PR team will ask questions to understand you and your body, so they can help you get the best out of the course.
At each session, you’ll spend about half the time on physical exercise. This will be designed to provide the right level of activity for you. You’ll get out of breath, but this is part of the therapy. You’ll always be monitored and won’t be asked to do more than you can do safely.
For the rest of the time, you’ll learn about topics such as:
- why exercise is so important for people with lung conditions
- how to use breathing techniques during physical activity or when you feel anxious
- how to manage anxiety and low mood
- how to use your inhalers and other medicines
- how to eat healthily
- what to do when you’re unwell
A few weeks ago I attended a British Lung Foundation meeting where the benefits of pulmonary rehabilitation as a tool to improve patient’s quality of life was promoted. A PHD student from Manchester presented her research into Clinical staff’s knowledge and willingness to refer patients into this service. Her findings were surprising and showed that patients face a bit of a lottery if wanting to be referred. Clinician’s opinions and knowledge vary greatly regarding PR and this is not necessarily due to lack of expertise in respiratory care.
So if you think PR will help you ask to be referred by your health practitioner and don’t be put off if the initial request is rebuffed, try someone else.