Inspiratory muscle training for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a practical guide for clinicians

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2010 Sep;91(9):1466-70. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2010.06.010.


Reduced inspiratory muscle strength is common in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and is associated with dyspnea and decreased exercise capacity. Most studies of inspiratory muscle training (IMT) in COPD have demonstrated increased inspiratory muscle strength. Many have also shown improvements in dyspnea and exercise capacity. However, a persisting challenge when translating and applying the findings of these studies in clinical practice is the disparity in training loads, modalities, and outcomes measures used in the different studies. This commentary summarizes our clinical and research experience with a threshold IMT device with the aim of providing clinicians interested in prescribing IMT in this population with practical recommendations regarding patient selection, assessment, and implementation of training. We propose using an interval-based high-intensity threshold IMT program for people who are unable to participate fully in whole-body exercise training because of comorbidities such as severe musculoskeletal problems. Initial training loads equivalent to at least 30% of a person's maximum inspiratory pressure (PImax) are required for all people undertaking IMT. Supervision, which includes monitoring of oxygen saturation throughout the first training session, is recommended, and patients are warned to expect transient delayed-onset muscle soreness, a consequence of muscle adaptation to an unaccustomed activity. We recommend training be undertaken 3 times a week for 8 weeks, with loads progressively increased as symptoms permit. It is prudent to exclude people at risk of pneumothorax or spontaneous rib fracture. Evaluation of IMT should include measures of PImax, dyspnea, health-related quality of life, and exercise capacity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breathing Exercises* / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Patient Selection
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / rehabilitation*
  • Respiratory Function Tests