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Objective To determine effects of different modes of upper limb training on dyspnea and quality of life of individuals with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) having different disease severity. Methods Randomized clinical trials were retrieved from five electronic databases. Risk of bias and quality of evidence were assessed using the Cochrane Collaboration’s tool and the GRADE approach, respectively. Effects of upper limb training compared to control were identified using standardized mean difference and 95% confidence interval. Results Fifteen studies with 514 subjects were included. When compared to control, upper limb endurance and strength training with moderate quality of evidence resulted in significant improvement in dyspnea. However, quality of life was not significantly different between upper limb training of all modes of and the control. The upper limb training was more effective in reducing dyspnea in patients with severe COPD than in those with mild to moderate levels of COPD. Although quality of life was slightly improved by upper limb training for those with moderate or severe level of COPD, such improvement did not reach a significant level when compared to the control. Conclusion Upper limb endurance and strength training could significantly improve dyspnea in individuals with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Thus, incorporating the upper limb training into pulmonary rehabilitation is recommended to reduce dyspnea, especially for those with severe patients. Further studies with larger sample size and standardized training protocol are needed to confirm these finding (Registration No. CRD42018102805).


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