If you, or a loved one, suffers with a chronic lung disease, like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or pulmonary fibrosis, there is hope for rebuilding strength and enjoying a more full and active life through pulmonary rehabilitation. These programs are designed to improve lung function, reduce symptom severity and improve quality of life.
Pulmonary rehabilitation is a program of education and exercise to increase awareness about your lungs and your disease. You will learn to achieve exercise with less shortness of breath. The classes are offered in a group setting so you get the chance to meet others with your condition, which provides an opportunity to give and receive peer support. The skills and knowledge learned in the program will help you feel better and manage your chronic lung disease. You’ll become stronger by increasing your level of fitness. Exercising your lungs and your muscles helps you be more active so you can do the things you enjoy with your loved ones. Pulmonary rehabilitation may even decrease the need for hospital visits.
Your rehab team often includes doctors, nurses, physical therapists, respiratory therapists, exercise specialists and dietitians. Together, these health professionals create a personal program to meet your specific needs.
Pulmonary rehabilitation is an outpatient program and may be based in a hospital or a clinic. You may also be able to receive certain forms of pulmonary rehabilitation in your own home.
Pulmonary rehabilitation is recommended for patients with lung disease who experience shortness of breath frequently and are not able to perform daily activities despite daily use of medication. Many patients in rehabilitation programs have a diagnosis of COPD, but these programs also help people with other types of chronic lung disease that limits breathing and activity.
Yes. When you start PR, your therapist will assess you. They may have you do a six-minute walk test while measuring the amount of oxygen in your blood. This will show the therapist how much oxygen you need during different types of exercise. Your therapist will guide you through the exercises and help you use your oxygen.
Pulmonary rehab is so much more than just exercise. It is education and support for people living with lung disease. After you've been going to PR for a while, you may be able to do some of the exercises at home. Always check with your doctor before starting an exercise routine at home.
The cost to you of PR depends on your insurance coverage and the program you choose. Medicare covers pulmonary rehabilitation for COPD if you meet certain requirements. Medicare may also cover rehabilitation for other lung diseases, but that depends on where you live. The pulmonary rehabilitation program coordinator can tell you if you qualify and what the cost to you will be.
There are many factors to consider when selecting a pulmonary rehabilitation program. If you haven’t already, be sure to consult with your healthcare provider to determine if pulmonary rehab is a good fit for you.
More information about pulmonary rehabilitation, including a directory of programs in the US that is updated regularly, is available at Livebetter.org. This new website has been developed by the American Thoracic Society, a medical professional organization of 16,000 members who work to prevent, detect, treat and cure respiratory, sleep and critical care related illnesses through research, clinical care and advocacy, in partnership with the Gawlicki Family Foundation, committed to transformative change in three focus areas: education, pulmonary health, and municipal and economic development. The Livebetter website provides lung disease patients and their caregivers comprehensive information about pulmonary rehabilitation, including guidance on how to select a program. It also highlights stories of patients who have attended pulmonary rehab.
To find a pulmonary rehabilitation program in your area, visit Livebetter.org/directory.
To find out if you or someone you love would benefit from a pulmonary rehabilitation program, contact your doctor, or call the American Lung Association Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872). Our Lung HelpLine is staffed by experienced registered nurses and respiratory therapists who can help you learn more about pulmonary rehabilitation as well as help find programs near you.
Page last updated: February 19, 2020