Better Care

Breathing better and beyond!

Community exercise and education courses run by BCHC physiotherapists are helping patients with chronic lung conditions learn techniques and exercises to improve their breathing and all-round quality of life.

As well as teaching better respiratory technique, the six-week programme gives patients the opportunity to meet people with similar conditions and share their experiences of illness and rehabilitation, reducing social isolation in a supportive, informal atmosphere.

The aim is to break a cycle in which low activity levels due to breathlessness cause weaker muscles that require yet more oxygen to function and arrest a downward spiral resulting in declining mental and physical health.

Amy Iche and Lucy Woodfield

Physiotherapist Amy Iche said: “This is a vicious cycle that often leads to a patient becoming socially isolated, anxious, depressed and feeling alone.

“When someone experiences this it has a knock-on effect with how they deal with their illness and this might mean they are more at risk of infections and the progression of the disease.”

Amy cites the example of retired carer Lucy Woodfield as a shining example of the life-changing potential of the approach.

“After the first session, I didn’t think I’d come back,” said the 66-year-old grandmother, of Great Barr.

“I felt like an old woman going in there, I was stooped, lethargic and weak with no confidence at all. But now, two years later, I feel fine. I’ve managed to quit smoking and have had an operation to improve my breathing and I really look forward to seeing friends I’ve made so I’ve kept on coming as a volunteer to support others.

“Coming to a group like this makes you realise you’re not on your own with your illness. Lots of people are going through similar things and that’s why I think the social side of it – meeting people and supporting each other – is as important as anything else.”

Amy added: “Like a lot of pulmonary rehabilitation patients, Lucy was a real sceptic when she started the class. But, within a few weeks, she noticed a difference in her breathing”

“Patients don’t realise how much there is to learn about their condition and how many other options there are to treating symptoms apart from inhalers and antibiotics Patients feel empowered and in control when they fully understand why they are finding it more difficult to breathe which, in turn, improves confidence and promotes independent self-management.”

“Lucy has been supported to stop smoking and has been able to have nasal surgery to help her breathing thanks to the improvement in her general condition. The difference in her quality of life and self-confidence is fantastic!

More about pulmonary rehabilitation

People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) who complete a full pulmonary rehabilitation programme are much less likely to be admitted to hospital than those who do not, according to Royal College of Physicians research.

The regular exercise regime helps rebuild weakened muscles and teaches participants how to maintain muscle strength to improve breathing.

Anyone with a respiratory condition, is affected by shortness of breath and are interested in attending the pulmonary rehabilitation classes should ask their GP or respiratory specialist team about a referral. For more information, phone 0121 245 5709.

Pulmonary rehab class

Patients are also taught about chronic lung conditions, how breathing is affected and how they can manage their symptoms independently and reduce the risk of deteriorating.

Interpreter services are available and BCHC is currently offering the programme at three venues across Birmingham, with two more venues set to be introduced - including an out-of-hours clinic for people with daytime work commitments. 

Refreshments are provided and only accessible sites with free parking are chosen.