La Mesa Rehab in San Diego — the sole comprehensive outpatient rehabilitation facility in the Southern California city — takes a holistic, innovative approach to pulmonary rehabilitation, which it emphasizes over pharmacological treatments for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Its COPD management strategy, of nonpharmacological therapy for pulmonary rehab, is cost-effective, and typically employs exercise, education, nutrition, and psychological counseling, according to its founder.
“We look at the entire body and address all things that cause shortness of breath,” Tami Peavy, who established La Mesa Rehab, said in a press release.
“They can include pain, weakness, posture as well as lung functioning,” Peavy said.
La Mesa Rehab now offering novel salt therapy
For reasons that are poorly understood, not all people with the chronic inflammatory lung disorder respond the same way to rehabilitation. However, such therapy is reported to be 3-5 times more effective than pharmacological treatments at mitigating shortness of breath and improving exercise capacity and life quality. This type of therapy also has been shown to reduce the number of hospitalizations and readmissions among COPD patients.
Still, less than 3% of COPD patients in the U.S. get pulmonary rehabilitation, according to Angela Wang, MD, a UC San Diego Health pulmonologist. Further, a recent study reported that about 40% of U.S. patients have limited access to rehabilitation programs.
Meanwhile, COPD is mainly treated with pharmacological therapies, including inhalers and steroid medications, which have known side effects.
“It’s a huge problem, and one that pulmonologists and professional organizations are trying to address,” Wang said, adding, “I was overjoyed to find out that there was a program in La Mesa. Having a program in East County has been a godsend. I’ve been so impressed with just how much their staff cares about each patient.”
Peavy established La Mesa Rehab, which incorporates novel treatments and personalized protocols, following the death of her father from emphysema, one of the two main types of COPD. The other primary type is chronic bronchitis.
La Mesa stands out locally because it offers continuity of care through a team of pulmonologists, respiratory therapists, and physical therapists. Therapists work closely with referring physicians to develop customized treatment programs that lessen shortness of breath, remove mucus, and enhance lung capacity through postural strengthening, exercise, and breathing techniques.
Specialized La Mesa treatments include bubble breathing, vest therapy, nebulizer treatments, oxygen therapy, gas exchange analysis, and balloon therapy.
The latest treatment available is salt therapy, which Peavy created to complement rehabilitation and minimize patients’ reliance on prescriptions. The therapy involves having patients inhale pharmaceutical-grade dry salt in the form of a mist that enters the lungs, gloms onto mucus, and expels it. Also known as halotherapy, the process helps to shrink and liquify mucus plugs that clog the airways and make breathing harder. The dry salt particles accelerate mucus removal and promote productive cough. Previously, the removal of such plugs required a surgical procedure called bronchoscopy.
La Mesa patients are also taught how to better manage the lung disorder, which helps them breathe better and live more productive lives.
“No one ever hugs me after I give them an inhaler, but I get hugs after I send people to La Mesa Rehab,” Wang said.
For more information on the rehabilitation center, visit the website or call 619-466-6077.