The past year has meant it's difficult to think of anything but COVID-19, especially if you contracted the disease! While there is still research being done on its long-term effects, there is also emerging research showing that recovery from COVID-19 may be assisted by physiotherapy like other pulmonary infections. Here, our Orleans physical therapists explain how physiotherapy may be able to help.
The virus SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, is associated with symptoms ranging in seriousness from non-existent to very severe.
Since this disease is still quite new, there are only early studies being conducted about the efficacy of rehabilitating on the recovery from COVID-19. However, some research is beginning to show that physical therapy may be effective in helping with patients' long-term recovery when suffering from pulmonary diseases affecting their mental and physical health like COVID-19.
While you may not commonly associate physiotherapists with your lung health, our breathing processes are governed like muscle groups just like any other motion or process.
The majority of the documented physiotherapy treatments for lung health are exercises and therapies designed and administered by breathing specialists. However, our Orleans physiotherapists may be able to support your recovery as well! We can do so through things like careful fitness planning, goal setting and safe prescription of exercises in order to slowly help return you to physical fitness to be able to go about your daily life again.
How Does COVID-19 Affect My Lungs?
COVID-19 is able to affect an infected person's body in a number of different ways. 81% of individuals who catch the disease express mild or moderate symptoms affecting their breathing like reduced lung capacity and dry coughing, as well as fatigue and fever. These symptoms generally can clear up without hospitalization or treatment being required. 14% develop severe versions of these symptoms which can last anywhere from weeks to months.
Some individuals who contract COVID-19 can also go on to express what is commonly referred to as "long COVID." This is where they continue to express some symptoms and feel the effects of the disease for far, far longer than is normal.
For patients who have suffered from a more severe case of COVID-19 or who are living with long COVID, rehabilitation may be able to help to to restore their health and fitness, their lungs' capacity and function, and their day-to-day lives once their symptoms have dissipated and they can start recovery.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the aftereffects of COVID-19 can include:
- chronic fatigue
- muscle or joint pain
- lung damage
- anxiety, depression, or trauma
- conditions that affect the blood vessels, such as clotting
- cognitive impairments that affect memory or concentration
- heart damage or inflammation, such as myocarditis or pericarditis
- lasting effects from complications, such as heart attacks, stroke, or pulmonary embolism
How Can Treatment at a Physiotherapy Clinic Help?
Since information about this disease is constantly trickling in, our physiotherapists are constantly changing ut methods to be as responsive as possible to the newest information about rehabilitating people's health and fitness who have suffered from COVID-19. We are able to support you in pacing exercises to your ability, prescribing exercises aimed at restoring your lung capacity and cardiovascular health, and developing strategies to slowly and safely return you to your regular day-to-day life.
These may include breathing exercises such as deeply inhaling and exhaling while engaging your abdominal muscles, light cardiovascular exercises that you can do around the house such as walking up and down flights of stairs, balance training and some low-intensity resistance training like squats.
The specifics of your treatment will, of course, depend on your own unique case. Some patients will be able to conduct their exercises in our physiotherapy centre, while others may only be able to do so in the comfort of their homes.
If you have experienced long periods of inactivity or confinement—whether that be because of COVID-19 or abiding by stay-at-home orders—your physical fitness may have declined. It's important for both you and your physiotherapist to be aware of your fitness level and how it has been influenced by these factors when planning a potential treatment.
What Should I Look Out for When Receiving Physical Rehabilitation for COVID-19?
Patients who are experiencing "long COVID" should be mindful of the fact that many individuals report that exercise can temporarily worsen their symptoms and condition. This condition is called post-exertional malaise (PEM). Our physiotherapists are aware of the dangers this condition poses and will work with you to make sure your treatment is cautious, safe and targeted at your needs and ability.
If, while exercising or shortly after, you notice that you are feeling disproportionately worse symptoms, stop exercising immediately and rest. The most important factor in recovering from the effects of COVID-19 is that you pace yourself and avoid this PEM as well as injury or other side effects as a result of your attempt to restore your health and mobility.
If you have been prescribed exercises by your physical therapist and find that they are causing you to experience PEM, let them know right away so you can work together to find a better solution for your rehabilitation.