Long Term Effects of COVID:
Covid-19 or corona virus has become a household name for several months now in the US and the rest of the world. While many who have had covid have recovered well, others have ended up requiring a hospital stay and or have had to deal with side effects that have lasted for days, weeks and sometimes even for several months after.
In this blog we will be discussing some the long-term effects of covid and how physical therapy can play an important role in with return to prior activities.
It is known that covid affects the most vital organs of the body including the heart, lungs, and the brain. So just a brief overview on these:
The Heart: Even in patients with moderate coronavirus symptoms, heart scans done months after recovery revealed: “lasting damage” to the heart muscle. According to research published in JAMA Cardiology, 78 of 100 people diagnosed with covid exhibited signs of cardiac injury weeks after they recovered.
The Lungs: Pneumonia, which is frequently caused by covid, can leave scar tissue on the lungs’ air sacs (alveoli), causing long-term breathing difficulties as well as poor endurance and very low activity tolerance, or no ability to exercise.
The Brain: One of the most common side effects include loss of the sense of taste and smell as well as headaches, debilitating fatigue and trouble thinking clearly or “brain fog”. Covid-19 can induce strokes, seizures, and has been linked to an increased risk of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
Other common symptoms include but are not limited to: Body aches, muscle or joint pain, sleep problems, sleep problems, gastrointestinal problems, and anxiety or depression.
So how does physical therapy fit in with all of this? Physical therapists are experts in mobility, as it relates to improving quality of life.
Physical therapy can play a big role as part of a multi-disciplinary approach in providing that continuum of care for those dealing with long lasting effects of covid. One of the most common issues with covid patients and those recovering from covid is the issue of fatigue, poor endurance and poor activity tolerance. Physical therapists are skilled in assessing these and can safely restore individuals back to prior activity levels.
This can be done by appropriate evaluation and examination and creating a treatment plan that will focus on improving strength, endurance, range of motion, balance and functional mobility as well as improve confidence and safe re-integration into the community.
Understanding that everyone is different, physical therapists can create a specialized exercise program that is safe and geared specifically for each person. This may include hands-on techniques as well as instruction and education. PTs have a thorough grasp of breathing methods and how to optimize the mechanics of breathing, particularly the use of the diaphragm, to help strengthen the lungs, improve lung capacity to address and improve shortness of breath with activity.
If you continue to struggle with the symptoms of long term covid, you need to contact your primary care doctor for a complete work up and before being referred to for physical therapy. In many states Physical therapists have direct access and can help point you in the right direction of where to begin. The goal of physical therapy will be to help improve your strength, stamina and quality of life through safe recommended movements.