For people with tetraplegia, regular use of a resistance-based inspiratory muscle trainer (IMT) promotes stronger respiratory muscles and improves lung capacity.
An IMT program has been shown to reduce the risk of developing respiratory complications such as pneumonia after spinal cord injury, by increasing lung volumes and strength of respiratory muscles. This is particularly important in winter, when the incidence of respiratory infections increases.
The training program is easy to complete at home using a lightweight, inexpensive device. After it is set up, training can usually be performed independently.
In the current environment, it is recommended for respiratory exercises, including IMT, be completed as an independent activity, as much as possible, to minimise the risk of virus transmission.
Note: If you have any questions, please contact your physiotherapist or spinal cord injury service for more information about IMT or for a more personalised respiratory exercise program and advice.
During this time, telehealth appointments are available for extra support.
IMT should be stopped if you have any respiratory tract infection as it increases the work of breathing. IMT is a technique that should be performed daily, when you are well.
You may need assistance to set up the IMT and cleaning the device. Good hand hygiene and disposable gloves should be used by your care team.
An IMT can be clamped or fixed to a surface to facilitate independent training, particularly for those who have limited arm function. See examples below of flexible or fixed arm devices and the different ways to mount them to remove the need for holding the device.
Commercially available, adjustable microphone holders and mobile phone holders may also be suitable. Many of these items can be found at your local hardware store or online.
Note: Take care when lining up a wheelchair with the device - drive slowly towards the IMT.
* Boswell-Ruys, C., Lewis, C., Wijeysuriya, N., McBain, R., Lee, B., McKenzie, D., Gandevia, S., Butler, J. (2020). Impact of respiratory muscle training on respiratory muscle strength, respiratory function and quality of life in individuals with tetraplegia: a randomized clinical trial. Thorax, 75; pp. 279 – 288.
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