Physiotherapy for COPD

physiotherapy for COPD

COPD stands for Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Inflamed airways, hyper-inflation of the lungs and impaired breathing characterize this progressive lung disease. Unfortunately, COPD is  irreversible, but it does respond  to certain types of treatment. Pulmonary rehabilitation — a physiotherapy designed to strengthen the lungs – can mitigate the effects of COPD.

The Viscious COPD Cycle

A number of factors drive the progressive course of COPD. It begins with an inflamed airway, which, in turn, hyper-inflates the lungs, thereby impeding their oxygen absorption and carbon dioxide elimination abilities.  The impaired oxygenation,  when combined with and rising carbon dioxide levels, has an adverse effect on the organ’s functions.

It doesn’t end there. COPD increases the workload on the already damaged respiratory muscles. The strain zaps what little was left of their strength. COPD increases the workload on your respiratory muscles, which may weaken under the strain. As the respiratory muscles enter failure mode, reduced air movement further interferes with gas exchange. The cycle thus becomes self-perpetuating. Pulmonary rehabilitation aims to interrupt the cycle by addressing one or more of the perpetuating factors.

The Physiotherapy Approach to COPD

Pulmonary rehabilitation  of COPD blends physiotherapy, dietary counseling, patient education and psychological support. A highly effective physiotherapy regimen was developed at Tokyo’s Juntendo University School of Medicine. It requires patients to participate in hour-long training sessions twice daily,  two days a week for six weeks.

Respiratory Conditioning

In the initial phases of pulmonary rehabilitation, the physiotherapist  prescribes exercises that improve the mobility of :

•    The rib cage
•    The spine
•    The back muscles
•    The neck muscles
•    The trunk muscles
•    The leg muscles
•    The arm muscles

Large muscle training is essential to COPD physiotherapy, as this type of exercise enhances the body’s ability to use oxygen. In addition, the physiotherapist performs manual stretching and strengthening techniques, which include compressing your rib cage during breathing and alternately stretching and relaxing your muscles. The physiotherapist also teaches COPD patients how to adjust their posture in order the maximize effective breathing techniques. In some cases, the physio will have patients use special machines to improve their respiratory function.

What the Research Tells Us

A research team in Canad found that over one year, pulmonary rehabilitation decreased health service utilisation, reduced direct costs and improved health status of COPD patients. Furthermore, the health status of the enrolled patients  improved significantly, irrespective of the severity and progression of disease.

Our Perth physiotherapists can help you with your COPD. Call i Physio Perth at (08) 9444 8729 today!