A Brief Guide to Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Physical Therapy

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Physical therapy is a hot topic. The profession has come a long way from its humble beginnings as back-breaking manual labor, and now it’s the bedrock of many treatment plans for patients with injuries or chronic diseases. Cardiovascular and pulmonary physical therapy in particular can be an important part of your patient’s rehabilitation plan, helping them recover from heart failure, congestive heart disease, pulmonary embolism, and other conditions that affect their cardiac system.

This post will explore these two forms of physical therapy, including what they are and how you might use them to help your patients get back on their feet.

What is cardiovascular physical therapy?

Cardiovascular physical therapy is a type of rehabilitation that focuses on the heart and circulatory system. The goals of cardiovascular PT are to improve blood flow, reduce strain on the heart, and prevent or manage conditions like congestive heart failure. There are a number of ways to achieve these goals, including exercises that improve strength and endurance, stretching and range of motion exercises, balance training to prevent falls and education on self-care skills like taking medications correctly or monitoring symptoms.

These are all important for improving the quality of life in patients with chronic conditions that require ongoing care. The sooner they can get back up on their feet after hospitalization or a procedure, the less likely it is that their condition will worsen.

What is pulmonary physical therapy?

Pulmonary physical therapy is a type of rehabilitation that focuses on the lungs and respiratory system. The goals of pulmonary PT are to improve breathing, reduce the risk of infection, and manage conditions like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Like cardiovascular PT, there are a number of different treatment modalities that can be used, such as breathing exercises or postural education.

Pulmonary physical therapy may not seem like an important part of your patient’s recovery plan – after all, it’s the heart and circulatory system that keep them alive! But remember: symptoms like shortness of breath can make everyday activities like walking or climbing stairs very difficult. Addressing these symptoms early on can make a big difference in the long-term success of your rehab plan.

Using the two treatments together

For many conditions, the two treatments are used in conjunction because they have so much overlap. The key difference in many cases is that cardiovascular physical therapists focus on the heart and pulmonary PT focuses on the lungs. Both types of treatment, however, can be used to improve patients’ quality of life, reduce symptoms like shortness of breath, and increase their ability to complete activities of daily living (ADLs).

An example of when the two would be used together would be in the treatment of congestive heart failure. After a hospital stay for CHF, a patient would typically go to physical therapy to work on strengthening and endurance exercises. Once they’ve made significant progress in these areas, they might then start pulmonary PT to focus on improving breathing and reducing the risk of infection and future heart and breathing problems.

Both cardiovascular and pulmonary physical therapy are important tools that you can use to help your patients recover from cardiac conditions. By understanding what they are and how they work, you can better assess which treatments might be right for your patients. With the help of a qualified physical therapist, your patients can get back on their feet and resume their normal lives.

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