Created: October 01, 2011
May 26, 2015
| Last Reviewed:
September 19, 2015
Dianne Jewell, PT, DPT, PhD; modified from the original summary by Kara A. Schworm, PT, MSPT, Board-Certified Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Clinical Specialist (posted October 21, 2011)
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is characterized by persistent airflow limitation that is usually progressive and involves an inflammatory response in the airways and lungs. In addition to its significant pulmonary manifestations, COPD has systemic effects. People with COPD have weaker strength in both upper and lower extremities than do people without COPD. Changes in muscle fiber type, reduced muscle mass, and decreased capillary density of muscle all contribute to decreased strength and endurance in this patient population. In addition, impaired balance and increased fall risk have been identified as secondary impairments in people with COPD. Physical therapists, either individually or as part of a pulmonary rehabilitation team, provide skilled interventions to reduce dyspnea and improve endurance, strength, and quality of life for people with COPD.