Your lungs are amazing organs, filtering about 11,000 litres of air daily. This air contains all sorts of unwanted extras: dust, chemical fumes, toxins, bacteria and viruses. With all these exposures around us it’s not surprising to find some of them, when inhaled for a long period of time, can cause damage to your lungs. Although your lung function naturally decreases with age, COPD is a result of either an earlier decline or a faster rate of decline.


Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (COPD) can be defined as a common preventable and treatable disease which is characterised by persistent airflow limitation that is usually progressive. COPD is associated with a chronic inflammatory response in the airways and the lung to noxious particles or gases and severity is increased by exacerbations and co-morbidities (definition adapted from GOLD 2013). COPD includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis and is often a combination of both. Asthma is not included in COPD as the effects of asthma can be reversed, however COPD may contain an asthmatic component.

Physiotherapy plays an important role in the management of COPD.  With COPD you may experience an increased amount of mucus in your chest which is not always easy to clear and leads to increased breathlessness. Physiotherapy breathing and manual techniques can help to loosen this. Most of these techniques you can continue to do at home once you have been shown how and when they are applicable. It is also important to get started on an exercise program. Most people with COPD avoid exercise because it causes them to feel short of breath. However, this leads to a decrease in fitness and strength of the heart and other muscles. As a result you feel tired sooner and more out of breath! If you avoid exercise then you will be able to do less, thus diminishing quality of life and increasing your risk of exacerbations and hospital admission. Likewise, if you do not work at clearing your secretions, you will have less space in your lung for oxygen to get in and also have more chance of picking up a lung infection.

Lung conditions that respond well to Pulmonary rehabilitation are:

  • Emphysema
  • Bronchiectasis
  • Chronic Asthma
  • Asbestosis
  • Lung Fibrosis
  • COPD
  • alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency
  • Post TB lung damage
  • Post adjuvant therapy for lung cancer
  • Post partial/complete lobectomy
  • Post Thoracotomy
  • Post COVID-19 lung damage