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Cardiorespiratory physiotherapy is practiced throughout the world. The goals of treatment are to improve cardiovascular and pulmonary function. Physiotherapists focused in this area generally work in hospital settings; however, many out-patient clinics also provide cardiorespiratory physiotherapy. Learn more below and if you’re looking for a clinic, go to find clinic or press the search icon in the menu.

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What is Cardiorespiratory Physiotherapy?

Cardiorespiratory physiotherapy is the practice of physiotherapy to improve cardiovascular and pulmonary function.  Principles of cardiorespiratory physiotherapy can be used in acute life-threatening situations and for top-level athletes. 

In university, physiotherapists receive extensive education in cardiopulmonary and cardiovascular anatomy. physiology, pathology and treatment.  Therapists use their knowledge to provide exercises and perform manual therapy to improve cardiovascular and pulmonary health.

The goals of cardiorespiratory physiotherapy are extensive and begin with improving delivery of oxygen to the blood and consequently, the rest of the body. In acute situations, therapists may perform a variety of manual therapy & positioning techniques, and breathing & mobilization exercises to improve oxygen delivery.  For example, a patient with pneumonia will have reduced blood oxygen levels due to mucous blocking airways.  This patient may require manual therapy and exercise to help move secretions out of his/her lungs to improve oxygen delivery. Treatments can be life saving under certain circumstances. 

In less acute situations the goals of cardiorespiratory physiotherapy are more long term. A treatment goal may include long term improvement in cardiovascular function and this is done primarily through therapeutic exercise.  Using their knowledge of exercise physiology, therapists can design programs for patients to not only improve their cardiovascular and cardiopulmonary health, but the health of their entire body.  

Here is a list of conditions that are commonly treated with cardiorespiratory physiotherapy.  This list is not extensive!

  • Pneumonia
  • COPD
  • Asthma
  • Heart Disease
  • Post-operative: Lung surgeries & heart surgeries (most common)
This article is not intended to be a literature review. References to scientific evidence may be provided to substantiate some information; however, this may not always be the case. For more information regarding scientific evidence pertaining to a specific treatment or service, speak with your physiotherapist or contact your provincial physiotherapy college.
Last updated Mar 16, 2020