Teaching techniques for the management of stress
and the practice of light exercises
to patients who suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
may help increase patients’ quality of life, as well as improve their physical symptoms, according to a report by Duke Medicine
, recently published at the Psychosomatic Medicine
The study conducted during five years at the Duke University Health System and Ohio State University included 147 COPD patients that took part in coping skills training. The patients received regular scheduled phone sessions from psychologists who offered general information on COPD, relaxation techniques, like deep breathing, tensing and releasing muscles, and stress management techniques. The researchers also analyzed a comparison group, comprised of 151 patients, who received phone consultations on topics like medication and nutrition, but not coping techniques.
The researchers concluded that the patients who were taught coping techniques increased their overall mental health and reduced the levels of depression, anxiety, fatigue and shortness of breath, as reported by the patients and compared with the control group. “Patients with COPD do not often seek mental health services,” explained the J.P. Gibbons Professor of Behavioral Medicine in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke, James Blumenthal, Ph.D. “Given the other issues patients face with this illness, they may not feel as though mental health treatment is a priority.”
Despite the good results of the study, the researchers emphasized that their findings did not include any conclusions about the positive effects of coping techniques on COPD-related hospitalizations or deaths. The research revealed that the low-cost approach could enhance quality of life, reduce distress and somatic symptoms, and improve physical functioning for patients.
“This model offers privacy and minimal inconvenience,” Blumenthal added. “This could be a valuable treatment for patients with other chronic conditions in which traditional mental health services are not easily accessible, or when patients are reluctant to seek such services.”
Researchers from Duke Medicine analyzed the effects of coaching COPD patients through the telephone, as a way of finding methods of dealing with the disease that affects about 15 million Americans, causes obstruction of the airways and difficulties in breathing and is already the third main cause of death in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“COPD is an increasingly important public health problem. It’s a debilitating and distressing illness,” said author Scott Palmer, M.D., MHS, an associate professor of pulmonary medicine at Duke and medical director of the project. “Our work has established an innovative and important intervention that could improve patient quality of life. Although it has not translated into improved survival rates, this approach is worthy of further investigation.”