SYDNEY, Dec 8 (The Conversation) Treatment of people with long COVID, who have experienced symptoms for more than four weeks following a COVID infection, can be extremely complex due to the variety of problems associated with the condition.
This is a condition in which all cannot be treated in the same way. Allied health professionals such as physiotherapists and occupational therapists are gaining importance in providing better treatment to people at different stages of COVID.
We’re still learning about the long Covid, but these experts can recommend exercise training, breathing techniques and ways to safely manage fatigue to help people ease back into their normal roles and routines .
Although the exact mechanism by which people develop chronic COVID is unclear, current evidence suggests that the COVID virus can trigger ongoing inflammation and immune responses in the body.
This results in signs and symptoms in many body systems, including the respiratory system, which controls functions such as heart rate, breathing, and digestion. This can manifest as long-lasting Covid symptoms like brain fog, fatigue, headache, difficulty breathing, and changes in taste and smell.
Estimates suggest that between 5 percent and 50 percent of people infected with COVID develop long COVID.
Allied health professionals – who are not doctors, dentists, nurses or midwives but provide specialized care – such as physiotherapists and occupational therapists can be particularly effective in managing the signs and symptoms of long Covid.
Exercise training is the most common treatment prescribed by physiotherapists to help people with long-term Covid.
Studies have found that exercise programs can help people with chronic COVID overcome fatigue, muscle weakness, shortness of breath.
Pulmonary rehabilitation is an exercise and education program often led by a physiotherapist and designed to help people with lung diseases. Programs like this have proven effective for people with long Covid.
However, not all exercise programs are suitable for all people with chronic COVID. For some people experiencing fatigue, starting with a graded exercise program can also be effective in improving fitness and reducing fatigue levels.
Repetitive range of motion exercises may be performed for joint and/or muscle pain and stiffness, with range of motion exercises prescribed. Other treatments such as fall prevention, muscle strengthening and balance training are also suitable for people with reduced mobility due to prolonged COVID.
It is important to consult a physiotherapist before starting exercise as over exertion can hinder your recovery. A thorough assessment of your heart function and symptoms of fatigue before exercise — and close monitoring during exercise — is essential because symptoms can fluctuate over time.
In addition to prescribing an exercise program, physiotherapists can provide strategies on how to manage shortness of breath, which is a common symptom of prolonged COVID.
People with prolonged COVID may also feel a constant need to cough or clear their chest. Active chakra breathing techniques such as the secretion evacuation technique may be useful for such people.
Respiratory muscle training involves specific exercises designed to strengthen the muscles of the respiratory system. This often involves taking deep breaths through a device that provides resistance.
This form of training has long been shown to be useful for some people with Covid, but not for all sufferers.
It is important to consult a physiotherapist about this along with your symptoms, as for people with prolonged Covid, treatments that suit the individual’s symptoms work best.
As well as rehabilitation exercises, physiotherapists and occupational therapists can provide personalized strategies to manage both symptoms and increase participation in work and daily life for people with prolonged COVID.
For example, they may develop strategies to enhance or compensate for poor attention and memory, or to deal with fatigue and help plan daily routines so that people can re-engage in their normal roles and routines. .
Other health professionals may also provide individualized treatments to help address deficiencies in the body. Psychologists can offer non-drug treatments to improve anxiety and depression. Speech pathologists can help someone whose voice has become hoarse.
If you are experiencing chronic COVID, ask your doctor to refer you to a multidisciplinary chronic COVID program, where different types of health professionals work together.
While long Covid symptoms can be distressing, it appears that many symptoms improve over time. You may recover more quickly with the help of a physiotherapist or occupational therapist.
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