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A lung disease is any condition that affects the respiratory system. The respiratory system is made up of the lungs, wind pipe and all the organs and soft tissues that make gas exchange possible. Gas exchange is the transfer of oxygen and carbon-dioxide into and out of the body. When gas exchange is affected by lung disease, the individual can become very short of breath and as a result, it is difficult to walk, run and exercise without regular rest periods. Physiotherapy can help to improve gas exchange, mobility and fitness through advice, education, exercise and symptom management.

Types of lung disease

There are many different diseases that affect the respiratory system.

Inflammatory lung diseases cause inflammation of the small air sacs in the lungs called alveoli. This restricts the air flow in and out of the lungs and means the heart has to work harder to get oxygen from the lungs. Individuals with conditions such as asthma, cystic fibrosis, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) become short of breath and find it difficult to breathe during exercise.

Restrictive lung diseases such as infant respiratory distress syndrome (IRDS) restrict expansion of the lungs to their full capacity and cause shortness of breath.

Infections that affect the upper respiratory tractinclude the common cold, sinusitis tonsillitis, pharyngitis, laryngitis. Upper tract infections affect the nose, sinuses and pharynx or larynx.Lower respiratory tract infections affect the part of the respiratory system below the vocal cords and include pneumonia and tuberculosis.

Tumours affect the respiratory system such as small cell cancer, large cell cancer, lymphoma.Pulmonary vascular diseases affect the blood circulation in the lungs and include pulmonary embolism, pulmonary oedema and pulmonary haemorrhage.

Gentle cardio-respiratory tollerance exercises supervised by specialist MSK PhysiotherapistAbove: Gentle cardio-respiratory tollerance exercises supervised by specialist MSK Physiotherapist

What are the symptoms of lung disease?

The symptoms of lung disease include breathlessness, a cough, a wheeze, production of phlegm and fatigue. If unmanaged, these symptoms can significantly limit exercise tolerance and mobility. Individuals with lung disease may become breathless whilst exercising, walking to the shops or using the stairs.

Diagnosis of lung disease

Respiratory diseases may be investigated using an X-ray, a computed tomography (CT) or ultrasound scan. A bronchoscopy allows a doctor to see inside the airways by inserting a camera called a bronchoscope through the nose or mouth. Depending on the suspected diagnosis it may be necessary to take a sample of lung tissue or phlegm for further analysis.

Treatment of lung disease

The treatment of lung disease depends upon the specific disease causing the symptoms and will be decided by a respiratory medicine specialist. General treatment for a respiratory condition includes smoking cessation advice, inhalers or medication to increase size of airway, provision of oxygen in the home and pulmonary rehabilitation.

Physiotherapy for lung disease

Specialist physiotherapy can provide substantial relief from the symptoms of lung disease. Following detailed assessment of your problems and symptoms, physiotherapy treatment of a respiratory condition is likely to involve: It is essential that the individual has a clear understanding of their diagnosis and knows the best possible methods of managing the symptoms involved. Our physiotherapists at will show the individual how to complete the active cycle of breathing in order to efficiently clear sputum from the lungs. It may be necessary to rest in a certain position to drain a specific area of the lung and perhaps a family member can assist with manual clearance techniques at home. Your physiotherapist will assess exercise tolerance and regularly re-assess in order to monitor levels of improvement. It is important to carry out some form of regular cardiovascular exercise and your physiotherapist will be able to advise you on the safest and best possible exercises to complete.

Individuals with lung disease significantly benefit from physiotherapy treatment. The benefits of regular physiotherapy sessions include:
  • Maintain clear airways
  • Reduce breathlessness
  • Improve exercise tolerance
  • Learn sputum clearance techniques
  • Learn how to optimise positioning to maintain clear airways
  • Learning breathing control exercises to do at home
  • Take part in cardiovascular exercise under experienced supervision
  • Decrease pain and anxiety
As a result of the effective clearance of the airways, individuals with lung disease will discover a notable improvement in mobility and exercise tolerance. Your physiotherapist will assess your ability to transfer, walk and if appropriate run. We will suggest and provide mobility aids such as walking sticks, zimmer frames and outdoor walkers to increase the safety and efficiency of your walking pattern. If you have any pain, your physiotherapist will be able to determine the cause of the pain and identify a treatment plan to reduce the symptoms. With your consent, your physiotherapist can liaise professionally with other health professionals involved in your care such as your respiratory specialist consultant, your doctor or social services in order to provide holistic 24 hour management of your condition.


At, we understand it is frustrating when your normal daily routine is limited by coughing and breathlessness. Our specialist physiotherapists have a clear understanding of the symptom management of lung disease and can teach you how to minimise your symptoms and improve your overall quality of life.
  • Caring, experienced physiotherapists
  • No waiting lists
  • Treatment at home or in the clinic
  • Treatment at any stage of your condition
  • Provision of a home exercise program
  • Flexible appointment times
  • Access to gymnasium
Physiotherapy sessions can be held in your home or at one of our clinics. Treatment is focused on reducing your symptoms, increasing your independence and improving standards of everyday living. To book an appointment or discuss how physiotherapy can improve the management of lung disease, please contact us now on 0330 088 7800. Alternatively, you can book an appointment with us online today!

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