Can Inspiratory Muscle Training Help You Recover From COVID-19?

Woman using the POWERbreathe device as a part of her COVID-19 recovery.

Symptoms of the coronavirus and long COVID symptoms are responsible for the rise in interest in respiratory rehabilitation. This is because this new coronavirus is causing lung complications that can cause long-term lung damage. However, just as regular cardio exercise improves heart health, so breathing exercises improve lung health. Breathing exercises make the lungs function more efficiently. Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT) is a breathing exercise that trains the breathing muscles to become stronger and therefore may be beneficial to help you recover from COVID-19.

There is a study that is already investigating the ‘Effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of INSPIRatory musclE training (IMT) for reducing postoperative pulmonary complications (PPC): a sham-controlled randomised controlled trial (RCT) (INSPIRE)’

Inspiratory Muscle Training in Respiratory Rehab

IMT, such as with POWERbreathe, is often a constituent of respiratory rehabilitation. This is because POWERbreathe IMT is scientifically proven to strengthen the diaphragm, the main breathing muscle. Another benefit of POWERbreathe IMT is that it is simple to use at home. The patient simply breathes in through the device against a resistance for 30 breaths twice a day. Healthcare professionals will ensure precautions are met when a patient uses IMT to recover from COVID 19. This will include ensuring the patient is no longer contagious and will be able to cope with the training. They may utilise the more sophisticated POWERbreathe KH-series to establish a percentage of the patient’s maximal inspiratory pressure (MIP) first. The KH-Series is specifically developed for healthcare professionals who use this measure of MIP as a guide to the patient’s training load.

Inspiratory Muscle Training is a component of respiratory muscle training, which is a part of chest physiotherapy. Chest physiotherapy also includes cough exercise, diaphragmatic training, stretching exercise, and home exercise. When provided early in respiratory conditions, chest therapy successfully improves gas exchange, reverses pathological progression and reduces/avoids the need for artificial ventilation. When prescribing chest physiotherapy for COVID patients in the acute stage, safety measures will apply to prevent cross-infection. This includes the use of surgical masks and visors.

This Critical Review investigates the safety and efficacy of chest physiotherapy in patients with COVID-19. It concludes by saying,

“Chest physiotherapy may improve respiratory functions and quality of life in patients with COVID-19, especially after discharge.”

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmed.2020.00454/full

Inspiratory Muscle Training in ICU

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, ICUs have been using POWERbreathe IMT to help wean patients off a ventilator. The reason IMT is useful in this situation is because these poorly patients experience muscle wasting while immobile. This muscle weakness and wasting not only affects the strength of the arms and legs, but also the strength of the inspiratory muscles that enable breathing. POWERbreathe IMT helps to strengthen the inspiratory muscles once again so that patient’s recover faster and can leave ICU more quickly.

How IMT may help you recover from covid-19

This 2020 review article highlights a link between inspiratory muscle performance and COVID-19. It explains how patients are likely to have impaired breathing performance if they are frail, obese or have a chronic disease. In fact, in conclusion, the review says,

“Furthermore, in patients identified as having respiratory muscle impairments, respiratory muscle training may prove valuable in mitigating the health impact of future pandemics.”

https://www.amjmed.com/article/S0002-9343(20)30347-8/fulltext

Here, in this video from Brazil, you can see a COVID patient using the POWERbreathe KH2 following his discharge from hospital. The KH2 is part of his rehab to help him recover from COVID.

Diaphragm dysfunction

In this study, US researchers using a neuromuscular ultrasound technique found that patients who require inpatient rehabilitation after hospitalisation due to COVID have a very high prevalence of diaphragm dysfunction.

“Our study provides new insight into neuromuscular respiratory weakness as an important contributor to prolonged functional impairments in survivors from COVID-19”

With the large number of long-COVID patients experiencing persistent fatigue and “air-hunger”, or shortness of breath, the researchers believe diaphragm muscle dysfunction may act as a key contributing factor. Therefore, it seems a reasonable assumption that training the diaphragm to become stronger and less prone to fatigue may be beneficial. Find out more about the use of Respiratory Muscle Training in COVID-19 Patient Recovery in our blog.  

Better to prevent than recover from COVID-19

If patients with weak breathing muscles benefit from training their inspiratory muscles, then can those without breathing problems also benefit? Yes, in fact we can all benefit from strengthening our breathing muscles as a preventative measure. POWERbreathe IMT is scientifically proven to help people with health and medical conditions. It can also help to increase fitness and sports performance. Furthermore, POWERbreathe IMT can improve respiratory muscle force in singers, public speakers, teachers, lecturers, musicians and dancers. It can also help with breathing issues in the workplace, such as the challenges placed on the breathing muscles by breathing apparatus used by people in the Fire Service.

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