It's likely been difficult to think about anything but the COVID-19 pandemic throughout the last year and a half. This goes doubly if you contracted the disease. While there is still research being conducted on the long-term effects of COVID-19, there is also emerging research that shows physiotherapy may be able to assist with recovery from pulmonary infections such as COVID-19. Here, our Stittsville physical therapists explain how physiotherapy may be able to help in your recovery.
The virus SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, is associated with symptoms ranging in seriousness from non-existent to very severe.
Since it is a relatively new disease, there are only early studies being conducted right now about the efficacy of rehabilitation in treating it. Among these early studies, research is beginning to appear suggesting that physiotherapy may be effective at aiding in the long-term recovery of patients who have suffered from pulmonary diseases affecting their physical and mental health such as 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.
While most of the physical therapy treatments are therapies and exercises designed by breathing specialists for your lung, our Stittsville physiotherapists can support your recovery as well. We can do so using careful fitness planning and prescription of safe exercises in order to slowly assist you in order to slowly return your physical fitness and help you go about your day-to-day life again.
How Does COVID-19 Affect My Lungs?
COVID-19 affects 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 can generally clear up without special treatment or hospitalization. 14% develop severe versions of these symptoms which can last anywhere from weeks to months.
Some individuals who contract COVID-19 also go on to express what is referred to as "long COVID," where they continue to express some symptoms and feel the effects of the disease for much longer than is normal.
For patients who have suffered from more severe symptoms of this disease or who are living with the effects of "long COVID," rehabilitation may be able to assist them in restoring their general physical health and fitness, their lung capacity and their ability to live their normal everyday lives once their symptoms have dissipated and they start recovery.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the aftereffects of COVID-19 can include:
- lung damage
- chronic fatigue
- muscle or joint pain
- anxiety, depression, or trauma
- cognitive impairments that affect memory or concentration
- conditions that affect the blood vessels, such as clotting
- 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 is constantly emerging about how to effectively rehabilitate patient suffering from COVID-19, our physiotherapists are committed to changing our methods to reflect the best and newest reports of effective therapies. 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 entirely depend on your own unique case. Some patients will be able to conduct exercises in our physiotherapy center, while others may only be able to perform exercises in 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 you notice that after exercise, you feel disproportionately worsened symptoms, make sure you stop exercising immediately and rest. The most important thing when it comes to recovering from COVID-19 is that you pace yourself and avoid PEM, injury, or exacerbating the side effects of your attempt to return to normal 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.