What is pulmonary rehabilitation?
Pulmonary rehabilitation is a program of exercise, education, and support to help patients with chronic lung conditions learn to breathe—and function—at the highest level possible. A typical program lasts six to eight weeks. We spend about half the time on physical exercise, and the rest providing information and tips about living with a lung condition and getting the best out of life. Topics include breathing techniques, how to manage stress, healthy eating, proper use of inhalers and medicines, and what to do when you’re experiencing a symptom flare-up. It’s a proven treatment that works, but is not currently widely available – and almost non-existent outside major population centres.
Why is exercise so important to people living with breathing problems?
Unfortunately, people who experience high levels of breathlessness can be afraid to exercise. But for most people, staying still will only make the problem worse. Living with chronic lung disease can be very isolating and it’s natural for people struggling with breathing problems and fatigue to avoid activity. But exercise is vital to helping manage symptoms. With pulmonary rehabilitation we teach patients how they can become fitter and more physically active, and they learn new ways of reducing breathlessness. In combination with proper medicines, it helps patients take control over their lung condition so it has less control over them.
What problem is your research trying to solve?
Less than one in 100 patients with chronic lung disease in Canada have access to a pulmonary rehabilitation program. We’re exploring new ways to deliver community-based programs outside the hospital setting, in recreation centres and at local health clubs for example. We’re also trialing telehealth strategies – leveraging the power of the Internet, digital technology and wearable devices that allow us to reach lung patients living in more remote areas. There simply aren’t the dollars to establish new hospital-based programs and rehabilitation facilities. Instead we need to maximize available resources to better support patients in need, and help them self-manage their condition with greater confidence.
Inge Rau is a patient with COPD who has benefited greatly from Dr. Pat Camp’s continued efforts in pulmonary rehabilitation. Read about Inge’s journey with pulmonary rehabilitation, and how it has allowed her to keep dancing.
Researcher – Dr. Pat Camp
Dr. Pat Camp is a physical therapist and clinician-scientist at St. Paul’s Hospital. As the clinical-specialist for the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program at St. Paul’s Hospital, Dr. Camp directs the clinical care and research activities associated with the program. The BC Lung Association provides funding in support of Dr. Camp’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation research.
The Lung Association’s National Research Campaign – Breathing as One
Together with our provincial Lung Association peers across the country, the BC Lung Association is working to bring patients, researchers, and donors together to breathe new life into lung research.