Treating Emphysema With Physiotherapy

Treating emphysema with physiotherapy

Recent news reports about singer Amy Winehouse having traces of the lung disease emphysema has brought the condition into the public eye. Statements from Amy Winehouse’s family and medical professionals have said that the she is currently undergoing treatment for the disease. But what is emphysema and what might that treatment involve? News suggests the singer is in the early stages of emphysema and her symptoms may still be mild, however many people’s lives have already been severely impacted by the lung condition and they require a range of treatments and therapies to help alleviate the symptoms. Physiotherapy is one such therapy that emphysema sufferers utilise.

Using physiotherapy to treat emphysema

What is emphysema and how can physiotherapy help?
Emphysema is a chronic respiratory disorder that causes a decrease in the function of the lungs. Air-sacs in the lungs (known as alveoli) and blood vessels are damaged and small airways (known as bronchioles) become inflamed. This damage causes the total area of the lung to lessen and makes it harder for a person to get air out of the lungs and harder still to get air in. This increases breathing rate and leads to breathlessness. As the disease progresses people can develop an enlarged heart that can then lead to heart failure. Other complications include pneumonia which can also be fatal. Emphysema is typically caused by excessive smoking and symptoms develop gradually over many years without people ever being aware there is something wrong. When they do, half of their lung function may already be lost. Currently there is no known cure for emphysema but physiotherapy can help with its symptoms.

Physiotherapy for emphysema is part of a pulmonary rehabilitation approach and is used successfully for other conditions such as cystic fibrosis. Physiotherapy, or chest physiotherapy to be exact, is used to help shift mucus that builds up in the airways helping to keep the airways as hygienic as possible and therefore reducing the possibility of secondary infections. The majority of people with emphysema are unable to have a good quality of life due to lack of breath, inactivity and limits to what they can do physically. Chest physiotherapy as part of pulmonary rehabilitation program can teach the patient breathing techniques to improve lung function and increase tolerance to physical activity.

As part of a multidiscipline approach to emphysema treatment, physiotherapy can help to decrease hospitalisation from complications of the underlying condition. Mental and emotional complications associated with emphysema can also be helped with physiotherapy. As physiotherapy helps to ease breathlessness and increase activity, a patient’s confidence and overall well-being improves. Anxiety and depression are common among emphysema sufferers and many find they overcome their psychological problems as they learn to cope with their condition and regain quality of life.

Helping emphysema with physiotherapy

Emphysema sufferers take control of their condition with physiotherapy
Physiotherapy within pulmonary rehabilitation is a relatively new treatment for emphysema but is proving very effective in slowing the progression of the disease. More importantly, physiotherapy is giving emphysema sufferers another chance at leading as normal a life as possible. Physiotherapy helps to educate the patient and family or carer by preparing them both to be actively involved in providing care.

Taking charge of their own care ensures the condition is managed correctly and reduces the number of visits to a healthcare professional

Article Submitted By:
Daniel Alexander, GoToSee Journalist

Date Published:

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