Pulmonary Rehabilitation Therapy


Pulmonary Rehabilitation or pulmonary rehab (abbreviated PR) is a program that is designed to help those people who have ongoing breathing problems, including but not limited to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Although PR is mostly commonly used to treat patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or cystic fibrosis (CF), it can be beneficial to those who suffer from OSA.

Now it is important to note that while PR is beneficial to those suffering with breathing problems, it does not replace any medical therapy; rather, it can be used along with medical therapy to better your breathing issues. When it comes to sleep apnea, sometimes using a CPAP machine is not enough, so your doctor might recommend trying PR along with your CPAP therapy.

At the 2015 American Thoracic Society International Conference, Dr. Katerina Neumannova, MSc, PhD presented her findings in a recent study she had just concluded. Her finding indicated that pulmonary rehabilitation was beneficial to patients who suffer from OSA. She worked with 40 patients that had been recently diagnosed with OSA at that time. The patients were split into two groups, one using just their CPAP machine, and the other group using their CPA machine, as well as going through PR. The comparisons found between the two groups proved that PR makes quite a difference for patients.

Dr. Neumannova kept notes on each patient’s AHI (apena/hypoapnea index), BMI (body mass index), pulmonary function, and certain body circumferences. The study was conducted over a period of six weeks. Patients who received PR therapy were seen twice a week for 60 minuet sessions. During those sessions, patients participated in respiratory muscle training, exercise training, oropharyngeal exercises (essentially mouth exercises), and breathing retraining.

During PR therapy, patients learned strategies to better assist their breathing – how to inhale the proper amount of air without working too hard to breathe. The patients who took part of the PR therapy sessions trained their bodies to automatically utilize these breathing techniques, thus learning how to inhale and exhale the right amount of air needed without overexerting themselves.

At the end of the six weeks, both groups exhibited signs of a decrease in severity of OSA. However, the group that received PR therapy also showed a reduction in neck, waist, and hip circumference of BMI, and an improvement in pulmonary function. The results indicated that PR seems to be beneficial to patients who suffer from OSA.

PR is a long term process, it is not something that you can learn to do in a day and just be done with. Patients had to go through PR therapy for at a minimum of six weeks before the study was concluded before they could reap the benefits of the therapy. If this is something that you may be considering, then please keep that in mind – you are not going to see results instantaneously.

Before you begin your journey, there are a few things that you are going to want to do. Of course, the first thing you should do is speak with your doctor. He or she might have a different approach in mind to tackle your breathing struggles. Once you have spoken with your physician, he/she is going to want to know what your current breathing conditions are like. You more than likely will go through some sort of lung function test to measure how much air you inhale and exhale, how fast you inhale and exhale, and how well your lungs deliver oxygen to your blood. Then, you are going to be tested on you ability to exercise – some healthcare providers may ask you to perform a six minute walk test, others might ask you to run/walk on a treadmill while monitoring your vitals. Your weight and height will also be measured before starting PR therapy – general nutrition counseling may be part of your PR therapy depending on your diet.

There are many steps through the process of your PR therapy, but ultimately it will be customized to your lifestyle, so it is difficult to describe what a typical situation will be. As mentioned before, this is a long term process, but it should not take more than a few months. After you have completed the process, you physician will more than likely have you repeat the tests that you completed at the beginning of this process to gauge whether your symptoms have improved. If there are significant differences, then that means that the PR therapy was a success. If your physician finds that there are little to no differences in the tests, then it might be a good idea to consider some sort of change in your medical therapy, OR your physician may want to run some more tests.

For more information on pulmonary rehabilitation, please visit the following links: 



For more information on CPAP and OSA, please visit our webiste: www.cpapoffice.com

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