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Respiratory Health: A whole other side to Physiotherapy

September 29, 2021

Physiotherapists are most commonly associated with the assessment and treatment of musculoskeletal disorders such as sore backs and rolled ankles. However, many physiotherapists seek to specialise in conditions affecting the lungs. Unfortunately, whilst everyone is aware that exercise is important for heart and lung health few people realise the benefits of seeing a Physiotherapist or Clinical Exercise Physiologist for their condition.

But isn’t it just about exercising more?


Well it turns out there is a little bit more to it than that. As Physiotherapists and Exercise
Physiologists we don’t treat everyone with a sore shoulder with the same exercises, sets, reps and weights for a wide range of reasons. Every individual for example has different causes, goals, abilities, levels of discomfort and as a result needs to be assessed so a tailored treatment plan can be provided to restore and/or maintain function. For these same reasons no two patients receive the same program for their heart or lungs.

What’s involved in a Respiratory Assessment?


During an initial consultation for your respiratory condition a clinician will ask you a range of questions regarding your health and medical history to understand exactly what your condition is and how its impacting on your life. The more we understand about your history the better we are able to help tailor a program for you.


We will also perform a range of assessments during your consultation including;


Looking at your respiratory rate (how many breaths per minute). Whilst this sounds simple it can be one of the earliest indicators of respiratory function deterioration.
Oxygen Saturation (SPO2%)
Breathing mechanics. How your ribs move indicates which areas of your lungs are filling with air. As some areas of our lungs are more efficient than others at extracting oxygen this is super important.
Auscultation (a fancy word for listening with a stethoscope). This can indicate if your airways are narrowing, or which areas are filled with sputum so we can customise our treatment of how to help you clear them.
Peak flow (how much air you can expel from your lungs quickly). This is a good way to monitor lung function in some conditions.
Functional capacity. Looking at you far you can walk and how easy it is to do the things you need to on a daily basis.

What does treatment look like?
 
Following the completion of your assessment your clinician will be able to discuss with you the results and how we can tailor a program that fits in with your lifestyle to keep you breathing easier and your lungs healthy. Specific treatment options however could include;
 
Education around your condition and how to manage it.
Breathing techniques to change altered breathing mechanics
Airway clearance techniques that will clear your chest, stop you coughing and feeling tired and fatigued.
Specific cardiorespiratory and strengthening programs to meet your specific needs. This is likely to include elements of strength training to keep your muscles strong and moving efficiently (so they don’t require as much oxygen to work) and cardio to help keep you fit.
Respiratory rehabilitation group exercise classes.

What if I have a condition that can’t get better?


Whilst there are conditions which we can’t cure currently through exercise or medication research has shown that good management from Physiotherapists and Clinical Exercise Physiologists can help to;


Maintain lung health and prevent further damage
Maintain and improve function
Improve Quality of Life


What if I’m on Oxygen?


Research has shown individuals who have advanced respiratory disease and require oxygen benefit significantly from seeing a Physiotherapist or Clinical Exercise Physiologist to help them maintain their physical and lung function. Clinicians are trained to assess and monitor individuals during all interventions to ensure that you are safe at all times. We can work closely with your doctors and specialists to help you monitor your condition closely to ensure that any changes in your condition can be addressed quickly and appropriately

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