Physical therapy for cardiopulmonary conditions encompasses a wide range of therapeutic treatments to help patients with their symptoms. The goal of physical therapy is to improve the patient’s quality of life by improving their function, reducing pain, and providing an active lifestyle. This blog post will discuss how physical therapy works, the problems it addresses, who qualifies for treatment, and more!
History of Cardiopulmonary PT
Care for patients with heart and lung problems has drastically improved over the decades. In the 1930s, those recovering from cardiac and pulmonary issues typically remained in bed. Over the next couple of decades, some physical activity while sitting down was introduced.
It wasn’t until the 1960s that a more active range of motion and exercise was allowed for patients with cardiopulmonary conditions. Healthcare providers found that when patients were more active and did certain exercises, their risk of developing many of the complications that came with bed rest went down.
By the 1970s, more advanced treatment techniques such as pulmonary rehabilitation became available to help those recovering from heart or lung disease achieve their maximum level of physical activity possible. Physician and physical therapist-assisted exercise programs designed for people with cardiopulmonary issues began being used past hospital discharge and have since become the status quo.
How Cardiopulmonary Physical Therapy Works
Cardiopulmonary physical therapy works by improving a patient’s strength, endurance, circulation, and breathing by focusing on their heart and lungs. This is done through standard therapeutic exercises, breathing techniques to help the patient manage their lung function better, and cardiovascular training that can include bicycling or walking/running on treadmills. It can also include more in-depth treatments such as ventilator applications and oxygen therapy for those who have more serious conditions.
Patients with cardiopulmonary conditions often find it difficult to exercise because of shortness of breath or pain in their chest. Physical therapists work to address these issues to increase a patient’s functionality and quality of life.
Who Can Benefit from Cardiopulmonary Physical Therapy?
Cardiopulmonary physical therapy can be beneficial for those with heart or lung issues including:
- Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)
- Heart surgery such as coronary stent placement
- Cystic fibrosis
- Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)
- Chronic bronchitis
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Chronic obstructive airway disorder
- Pulmonary hypertension
- Lung cancer
- Heart disease
Cardiopulmonary PT can also be beneficial for athletes who are trying to improve their athletic performance or who are recovering from an injury.
Benefits of Cardiopulmonary PT
The benefits of cardiopulmonary physical therapy can include increased strength, endurance, and stability, improved lung function, decreased pain experienced with breathing or movement, and an increase in cardiovascular fitness.
Many of the exercises done with a physical therapist are also healthy for patients to do on their own at home. This can make it easier for them to follow through with the treatment plan and continue decreasing symptoms when they are done with physical therapy sessions. It can also be useful for them to incorporate into their regular fitness regimen after the healing process.
Cardiopulmonary Physical Therapy Treatments
Physical therapists who work in this area of treatment may use one or more types of therapy when working with patients. These include:
This can be done through the use of a tank, nasal cannula, face mask for short periods, oxygen concentrator at home if needed, and/or continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines used during sleep.
This is a guided part of the healing process that will likely be a major treatment element. Patients can do a variety of exercises to improve their range of motion, strength, and endurance as well as cardiovascular fitness with the guidance of a physician.
Another important part of treatment (as it can help with energy conservation) are breathing techniques that focus on proper lung function such as pursed lips breathing or diaphragmatic breathing. It also may include the use of mechanical ventilators if needed, though this is rare.
If there are other conditions that a patient has, such as diabetes or hypertension, they may require medications to treat their condition. Physical therapists will work with physicians and patients on medication management for these cases.
What to Expect
On your first visit, you can expect to meet with a physical therapist who will take your history and perform an initial assessment to determine the best course of treatment. Depending on the severity, your provider may give you some things that you can get started on right away at home.
In your following visits, your physical therapist will review your progress and make updates to the treatment plan. Depending on what you are working towards, it can take anywhere from several weeks to months for patients to see improvement in their condition, but it will all be worth it in the end.
During this time, you’ll work with professionals who will give you exercises that are designed to help you increase your strength, endurance, and stability as well as improve respiratory function. These may include running, weight lifting, stretching, and more.
You may also be taught certain techniques for breathing or ways to manage pain that can make it easier to take care of yourself between visits. Some of these breathing techniques include pursed-lip breathing, which will involve making an airtight seal with your lips and inhaling slowly through the nose to fill up your lungs, and diaphragmatic breathing, which is a form of controlled breathing that involves expanding your diaphragm, flattening it back down and drawing air into the lungs.
If you work with a physical therapist in cardiopulmonary rehabilitation, they will also help you learn how to do them correctly at home so that you can continue decreasing any symptoms or complications of your condition once treatment ends.
As long as your treatment plan goes well, you should see an improvement in your condition within a few weeks or months. You can continue to work with a physical therapist so that you will know the right way to perform any exercises at home, as well as have someone there who can answer questions for you about what you are working towards. The most important part, though, will be your responsibility to maintain health and fitness in order to moderate your condition after treatment has concluded.
If you are beginning cardiopulmonary rehabilitation, it is important to have the right team of professionals who can help you through the process. Now that you know about what to expect from this type of treatment, use online directories like Rehab.com to find the right rehabilitation and therapy center for you!