What is Pulmonary Rehabilitation?

Pulmonary rehabilitation (pull mon air ree re ha bill ii tay shun) is a program of exercise, education, and support to help you learn to breathe and function at the highest level possible.

Hear from patients of the Grace Anne Dorney Pulmonary Rehabilitation Clinic

Hear from patients of the Grace Anne Dorney Pulmonary Rehabilitation Clinic at Cabin Creek in Dawes, WV about the meaningful impact that pulmonary rehabilitation has had on their lives and share your own story on COPD360social

Pulmonary Rehabilitation - Live Better and Live Longer click to view larger image

A recent study by Lindenauer and colleagues showed a substantial survival benefit for COPD patients who received Pulmonary Rehabilitation after a hospitalization for an exacerbation. This information is summarized in the attached infographic and adds to the already well-demonstrated benefits of improved function, symptoms, mood and quality of life, as well as reduction in COPD exacerbations

At pulmonary rehabilitation you’ll work with a team of specialists who will help you improve your physical condition. You will also learn how to manage your COPD to help you stay healthy and active long after you complete the course.

In order to qualify for pulmonary rehabilitation, you must be referred by your doctor and have spirometry (spuh-rom-ah-tree) test results within the past year that show you have COPD. In the US, Medicare policy on pulmonary rehabilitation can be found here.

Your rehabilitation team will take a complete health history, talk with you about your current level of activity, and help you set goals for what is most important to you. In most programs you will be asked to walk as they monitor your heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen level. Don’t worry if you can’t walk very far! Pulmonary rehabilitation professionals are experts at working with people with severe shortness of breath, and they’ll make sure you are safe.

You may only be able to start out exercising at a slow pace, even for only a minute or two. That’s okay. If you need supplemental oxygen you can use it. Your oxygen level, heart rate, and blood pressure will be monitored so you can exercise safely and effectively. You will be surprised at how much you can accomplish!

At pulmonary rehabilitation, you will also learn about: breathing techniques, medications, nutrition, relaxation, oxygen, travel, how to do everyday tasks with less shortness of breath, and how to stay healthy and avoid COPD flare-ups (exacerbations). You’ll also learn how to cope with the changes that often come with COPD - depression, panic, anxiety, and others. A bonus is that you’ll also meet other people with COPD who have many of the same experiences, questions and feelings that you do.

To learn more about the pulmonary rehabilitation process, check out these additional patient resources from the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR). You can also watch a fantastic COPD pulmonary rehabilitation video for free from their website. More information on pulmonary rehabilitation for COPD can be found at the Live Better with Pulmonary Rehabilitation website, which is a pilot project of the American Thoracic Society and the Gawlicki Family Foundation to increase public awareness of pulmonary rehabilitation.

As during COVID-19, most patients have no access to PR facilities, the COPD Foundation in collaboration with the American Thoracic Society, and the American Lung Association issued the following guidance: What to do When Pulmonary Rehabilitation (PR) is Unavailable

Resources and Support

The COPD Foundation offers resources such as COPD360social, an online community where you can connect with patients, caregivers and health care providers and ask questions, share your experiences and receive and provide support.