In recognition of Pulmonary Rehabilitation Week – March 12-18 – Matt Nippins, PT, DPT, CCS, of MGH Physical Therapy Services, discusses pulmonary rehabilitation efforts at the MGH.

How do you describe pulmonary rehabilitation?
Pulmonary rehabilitation is a program designed to give people with chronic lung disease the tools to exercise and learn more about how to manage their condition. Physical therapists help participants establish a safe and effective exercise program that works with their individual strengths and weaknesses to decrease breathlessness, improve quality of life and decrease the likelihood of hospitalization. In addition to working with physical therapists, participants meet with respiratory therapists, physicians, social workers and dieticians to help understand how to use medications, conserve energy, improve muscle strength, use oxygen if needed and recognize and reduce anxiety and depression.

Who can benefit from pulmonary rehabilitation?
Anyone who has a chronic lung disease and feels short of breath during activity can make improvements in pulmonary rehab. In addition, people who don’t necessarily feel short of breath, but who also do not currently participate in an exercise program, can also benefit. Pulmonary rehabilitation has proven to be especially beneficial to those who have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

How does pulmonary rehab help patients feel less breathless?
Think of pulmonary rehabilitation as a tune-up. If you tune up your car you get better gas mileage. Pulmonary rehabilitation makes your muscles more efficient in using the oxygen from your lungs and you end up being able to do more with less shortness of breath.

Can people exercise if they require supplemental oxygen?
Absolutely. Pulmonary rehabilitation also includes education about the use and options for supplemental oxygen.

What advice would you offer to people who feel they are too unsteady or have aches and pains that prevent them from exercising?
The benefit of having a multidisciplinary pulmonary rehabilitation program is that we can address all of these issues and design a program specific to each patient’s needs. In physical therapy, we see patients with a variety of different needs and we have the ability to tailor therapy for most patients.As part of the physical therapy evaluation, the physical therapist will identify and address each individual’s gait, balance and musculoskeletal issues.

Read more articles from the 03/17/17 Hotline issue.