It has been difficult to think of anything but the COVID-19 pandemic through the last year and a half, 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 physiotherapy may assist with recovery from pulmonary infections like COVID-19. Here, our Nepean physical therapists explain how physiotherapy may be able to help you.
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 quite new, there are only early studies being conducted about the efficacy of rehabilitation. However, 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 that have affected 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 much of the documented physical therapy treatments are exercises and therapies by breathing specialists designed specifically for your lungs, our Nepean physiotherapists are able to support your recovery too. We can do so through careful fitness planning and safe exercise prescription 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 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 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 "long COVID," rehabilitation may be able to help them restore their general physical health and fitness, their lung capacity and function and their day-to-day lives once their symptoms have dissipated and they begin recovery.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the aftereffects of COVID-19 can include:
- chronic fatigue
- lung damage
- muscle or joint pain
- anxiety, depression, or trauma
- heart damage or inflammation, such as myocarditis or pericarditis
- cognitive impairments that affect memory or concentration
- conditions that affect the blood vessels, such as clotting
- lasting effects from complications, such as heart attacks, stroke, or pulmonary embolism
How Can Treatment at a Physiotherapy Clinic Help?
Since information is constantly trickling in about how to effectively rehabilitate patients who have suffered from COVID-19, our physiotherapists are constantly changing our methods to reflect the best and newest reports. 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 and rest. The most important thing when it comes to recovering from COVID-19 is that you pace yourself and avoid PEM, injury or any other side effects of your attempt to return to your 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.
Have you suffered from COVID-19 and are curious about how physiotherapy can help?
Our physical therapists are happy to talk to you about your treatment options.
Welcome to the Nepean Sports Medicine & Physiotherapy Centre blog, where we provide lots of helpful tips, news, information and advice about physiotherapy and massage treatments, as well as general health and wellness, in Nepean and Ottawa.