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Pulmonary Rehab and COPD
If you live with COPD, you’ve likely heard about pulmonary rehabilitation somewhere along the way. If the term sounds new to you, the techniques will be more familiar: exercise, education and support take center stage, and together these can significantly improve your comfort and happiness. Pulmonary rehab has earned so much attention because it helps in so many ways.
Learning to exercise properly, set good goals and master breathing techniques can take some time, and success won’t come overnight, but the effort is well worth your while. If you’re thinking about rehab for your COPD, here are eight benefits that should convince you to start right away.
1. More Control
When you live with a chronic and progressive disease, it’s common to lose your sense of control. You can no longer do everything you want when you want to do it, and sometimes your disease completely dictates how you spend your days.
A team of specialists will guide you through your pulmonary rehab program, but you put in the work to get better. Your progress depends on your own participation, and that’s an empowering feeling — especially when you start to see results.
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2. Less Pain and Discomfort
Your physical symptoms are what brought you to pulmonary rehab in the first place, and that’s where the first changes will happen. Through a specially-designed exercise program, you will safely strengthen the muscles in your chest, increase your endurance, and decrease stiffness — which adds up to easier breathing and easier movement.
As your muscles get stronger you will be able to clear your chest with less effort and you’ll be less prone to painful injury. Since injuries complicate your treatment, the longer you can stay injury-free the better for your general, long-term health.
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3. Remaining Independent
There’s no doubt about it: the exercise and education at the heart of pulmonary rehab will help you stay independent for longer. COPD is a progressive disease, and the more your mind and body suffer under the weight of it, the more difficult it is to do things for yourself. In the worst cases, patients lose the ability to support themselves day in and day out.
Pulmonary rehabilitation is good insurance against a dependent lifestyle. As you build a stronger, more energetic body, you will also learn about assistive devices, good nutrition, and stress reduction techniques that will help you continue to live safely and comfortably on your own.
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4. Social Support
One of the most important aspects of pulmonary rehab is the team that’s with you each step of the way. These are people who understand your challenges, know how best to clear the hurdles, and are eager to lend a caring and compassionate hand, ear or shoulder to cry on. When you feel like none of your friends and family can really understand how your COPD is affecting your life, you can turn to your pulmonary rehab team for the social support you need to stay on track and believe in yourself.
In some programs, there is an opportunity to interact with other COPD patients, which can provide a welcome distraction from your symptoms and an opportunity to learn other coping techniques. If not, your team may be able to connect you with a good support group.
Communication is key for you and for your loved ones. Follow these tips for telling a loved one about your COPD.
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5. Better Understanding of Your Disease
Knowledge is power, and pulmonary rehab teaches you a good deal about your COPD. Through one-on-one sessions you’ll better understand your medication treatment plan (no easy feat when you’re juggling a variety of medications), learn to use oxygen therapy properly, and develop excellent strategies to deal with specific symptoms.
The more you learn about your COPD treatment, symptoms, and warning signs, the more quickly you can stop a potential emergency before it starts. When you know how to react to various situations, you won’t need to first contact your doctor – and that can save you precious time and lots of discomfort.
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6. Warding off Depression
Physical relief is crucial, but psychological support is just as important. The more severe your COPD is, the greater your risk for serious mental issues like depression, anxiety and mood disorders. When you struggle with a psychological problem on top of your breathing problems, your quality of life will undoubtedly plummet.
Counseling, relaxation treatments and regular exercise are some of the best ways to avoid depression, and fortunately these are all fundamental parts of pulmonary rehab programs.
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7. Fewer Hospitalizations
Studies show that COPD patients who attend pulmonary rehab visit the hospital less often for exacerbations than patients who don’t bother with rehab. In some cases, pulmonary rehab shaves off over a week’s worth of hospital time each year.
Hospitalizations may not always be serious, but simply visiting the emergency room will cause physical and emotional strain. Experts insist that the more often you visit the hospital with COPD complications, the higher your chances of severe complications or death in the next few years. It follows that you should do whatever you can to avoid going to the hospital in the first place.
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8. Renewed Self Confidence
The power of healthy self-esteem should not be underestimated. When you have the confidence to fight your disease, stay motivated in your hobbies and forgive yourself when you stray from your goals, you will be happier and more fulfilled. Unfortunately, COPD can take the wind out of your sails before you know it.
In order to change your life you have to believe in yourself, but sometimes you need a push in the right direction. Since your pulmonary rehabilitation program is designed for your particular needs, you’ll have the tools to make progress in your health and focus on your abilities rather than your limitations. That’s a recipe for greater self-confidence.
Learning the methods to handle your COPD is the first half of your pulmonary rehab program – the second part is carrying those tips, techniques, and revelations into your daily life after the program ends. Everyone adapts differently to life after rehab, but those who maintain a high activity level can continue to enjoy the benefits for years to come.
When symptoms flare up it can be difficult to breathe. In such instances it may be helpful to use BiPAP for COPD, a machine that assists with breathing.