Macksville Clinic - 2/12 Cooper St, Macksville, NSW, 2447 - Nambucca Heads Clinic - 20 Liston St, Nambucca Heads, NSW, 2448

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

What is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a chronic lung disease that is usually progressive and not curable, it is commonly caused by smoking and is seen in people over the age of 40. The disease is linked with continuous ongoing airway limitation and inflammation. This disease causes issues with:

  • Breathing – especially breathing air out of the lungs, and problems with the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide within the lungs.
  • Changes to the breathing mechanics (pattern)
  • Breathlessness
  • Reduced heart function
  • Skeletal muscles
  • Overall fitness

Symptoms commonly experienced include:

  • Breathlessness
  • Chronic Cough
  • Phlegm Production

What causes COPD?

COPD is most commonly caused by smoking although 3-11% of diagnosed patients have never smoked. Factors that contribute to developing COPD include:

  • Exposure to second-hand smoke
  • Outdoor air pollution
  • Occupational dusts and chemicals
  • Fumes from burning fuels
  • Genetic Preposition

How do I know if I have COPD?

Your GP will be able to help diagnose COPD in which they will preform a test using a spirometer where you will blow into the instrument. This will determine if you have COPD and how severe it is. A specialist mayy be advised for further treatment and assessment. As COPD cannot be cured, the treatment focuses on managing the condition and preventing flare-ups. To minimise the symptoms and keep healthy it is possible to:

  • Quit smoking
  • Optimise medication prescribed
  • Keeping up to date with vaccinations
  • Attending pulmonary rehabilitation

For more severe cases management can include:

  • Surgery
  • Home oxygen or the use of breathing machine

How can Physiotherapy help with COPD?

Physiotherapy is an important part of the management of COPD which involves a variety of different treatments depending on severity of your main symptoms. Commonly exercise is the most important part of management for COPD rehabilitation as an active lifestyle is vital to keep fit, healthy, strong and staying out of the hospital.

What is pulmonary rehabilitation?

Pulmonary rehabilitation is a program for people with chronic lung disease, including COPD, which involves supervised group exercise training, self-management education, and support. It is recommended that people with COPD should exercise for approximately 30 minutes 5 days a week this may include brisk walking, jogging, riding on a stationary bike or swimming. For this disease, it is most effectively completed at a moderate intensity meaning that your heart rate is increased slightly and you get a bit puffed. Exercise is safe for this condition bt must be managed correctly by yourself and a professional.

What can physiotherapy do?

Our physiotherapist will be able to educate and determine the main issues you have and the best way to treat them. Physiotherapy may involve breathing exercises, airway clearance techniques and inhalation therapy to help clear phlegm from the airways. Our physiotherapists may consult with your respiratory doctor in the case if you are having trouble sleeping and breathing at night in which you may be prescribed with a machine to help you. This may include:

  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)
  • Non-invasive positive pressure (NIV)
  • Bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP)

Our physiotherapists can also help with conditions that result for COPD such as musculoskeletal problems including spinal pain, restricted chest wall, ribs or arm movement, or poor posture; osteoporosis; and urinary incontinence (common due to chronic coughing).

If you would like to find out more please call us or book an appointment here.

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Reference: Australian Physiotherapy Association 2019, Your Body, viewed 19 November 2019, <>.