Whether or not you’ve suffered a serious injury or illness, if you have ever experienced shortness of breath, chest pain, or fatigue, you have probably heard of cardiovascular and pulmonary physical therapy. There are many similarities between the two since both focus on the same areas of the body, have similar treatments, and use similar equipment. However, there are also several differences that you should be aware of before choosing which type is best for you.
This form of treatment is focused on improving the function of the heart and blood vessels. It can be used to treat a wide variety of conditions, including chest pain, heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Cardiovascular PT may include exercises that increase your heart rate or improve your endurance. Common exercises during cardiovascular physical therapy include walking, biking, swimming, and using a treadmill.
Generally, cardiovascular physical therapy starts out with low-intensity exercises and gradually increases the intensity as you progress. If you have a heart condition, your therapist will work with you to create a safe exercise program that meets your specific needs.
Pulmonary PT is focused on improving the function of the lungs and breathing muscles. It can be used to treat a wide variety of conditions, including asthma, COPD, cystic fibrosis, pneumonia, and bronchitis. Pulmonary PT may include exercises that improve your lung capacity or help you breathe more easily. It will also include education on how to use your breathing muscles properly during activities.
Pulmonary physical therapy often starts with education about your condition and its treatment. Your therapist will then work with you to create an individualized exercise program that is tailored toward your current abilities, goals, and needs. Common exercises include coughing or moving air in and out of the lungs (called “breathing exercises”), walking, and using a stationary bike.
The main difference between cardiovascular and pulmonary physical therapy is the type of conditions they are used to treat. Cardiovascular PT is typically used to treat conditions that affect the heart or blood vessels, while pulmonary PT is typically used to treat conditions that affect the lungs or breathing muscles.
There are also some exercises that differ in each treatment regimen. Cardiovascular physical therapy involves mostly low-intensity exercises that are meant to improve endurance or heart rate. These often include walking, biking, swimming, and using a treadmill. Pulmonary physical therapy involves exercises like diaphragmatic breathing that are aimed at improving lung function and ease of breathing. These exercises are often done while sitting or standing, rather than walking or biking.
There are many similarities between these two treatments because they both revolve around the same area of the body (the heart and lungs). They also have many of the same goals for treatment. While both have different focal points, the purpose of both is to gain overall mobility, improve function, and reduce pain.
Both cardiovascular and pulmonary physical therapy use equipment that is designed to help with the exercises. This includes treadmills, bikes, and pool noodles for swimming. They may both include electrical stimulation or compression sleeves as part of treatment as well.
In most cases, patients end up requiring a combination of treatments to achieve their goals. The treatment team will often recommend a variety of cardiovascular and pulmonary physical therapy treatments and exercises in order to get the best results for you!