Once being infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, or COVID, most individuals will start to fully recover within a few days up to a few weeks. Then, there are those that experience symptoms of the virus for weeks, months, or years after being diagnosed. Even people who had no initial symptoms may develop symptoms later on in time. This is referred to as “Long Covid” and may be caused by either a mild case of Covid-19 or a severe case.

The good news is, physical therapy has been determined to be a productive treatment for the condition. If you are looking to expand your practices specialties, you should consider adding long covid treatment regimens to your practice.

Physical Therapy Benefits Long Covid

What Other Names Describe Long COVID?

Long COVID is known by an assortment of names. These include “long-haul COVID”, “Chronic COVID”, “Post- acute Sequelae of SAARS-CoC-2(PASC)”, AND “Post-COVIS 19 Conditions”.

What is Long COVID?

Based on the definition given by the World Health Organization (WHO), Long COVID is the continuation or the new development of new symptoms three months after being originally infected with the initial SARS-CoV-2 infection and those symptoms lasting a minimum of 2 months with no other explanation”.

What Symptoms Are Experienced with Long COVID?

There are numerous symptoms that are experienced by those who develop Long COVID. These include cough, heart palpitations, nausea, cognitive impairment, fatigue, “brain fog”, pain, and movement issues. Additional symptoms include headaches, aches, pains, soreness in the muscles, pain in the joints, loss of taste, loss of smell, and breathing problems such as being unable to take a full breath.

What are the Odds of Developing Long COVID?

A total of about 60% of all adults in the United States have had COVID. Approximately 1 out of 3 of those adults have reported having Long COVID. As of right now, about 1 out of 10 reports having Long COVID.

How Long Does Long COVID Last?

Long COVID may last many weeks, months, or years after being infected.

Does Long COVID Show Up in Blood Tests?

New research studies have found that there are certain types of proteins in the blood of those that have long COVID. This finding could – eventually – lead to scientific diagnostic testing and therapeutic targets in the future.

What is the Mystery of COVID Fatigue?

Those that have Long COVID have been found to have less morning cortisol, which is a hormone that helps people get up and get moving upon waking. As a result of this, sufferers often experience extreme fatigue.

Physical Rehabilitation an Effective Treatment for Long COVID

The symptoms of Long COVID such as pain in the joints, poor endurance levels, and even respiratory problems may have a significant impact on one’s daily routine. At times, the symptoms are so high in severity that a patient is unable to work their normal schedule due to the illness. The persistence of symptoms could result in a patient needing treatment in the ICU – even if they have a mild case of COVID.

In recent months, it has been determined that physical rehabilitation is an effective treatment for Long COVID. There was a paper released by more than 660,000 physiotherapists around the world that states that physical therapy should be a fundamental treatment of Long COVID to ensure recovery and provide a boost to the functionality of those that have the symptoms of Long COVID.

Yes, physical therapy is considered a core component of treatment it is just one type of treatment out of many that resolves the underlying cause of the condition and the symptoms. A multidisciplinary approach that is tailored for each patient will result in better outcomes than the use of only one type of therapy.

Young Man with Mask

How Does Physical Therapy Help Long COVID Patients?

Patients that have long COVID often find that they are consistently fatigued, they have issues breathing, experience complications in walking or climbing stairs, and similar issues. Because of these symptoms, they spend more time sitting or lying in bed. As a result of the inactivity, they then find that they have low endurance levels, develop an intolerance for exercise, and their muscle strength is poor. Physical therapy will help these patients in improving their general range of movement and return to their prior level of functioning. Not only can physical therapy help in physical symptoms, it can help in emotional symptoms – such as anxiety and bouts of depression.

What are the Goals of Physical Therapy for Long COVID Patients?

There are many goals of physical therapy for patients that have Long COVID. These include the following:

  • Improving the General function of the Respiratory System
  • Reducing Fatigue
  • Improving the Endurance of the Cardiovascular System
  • Improving Fitness and the strength of the Muscles
  • Relieving Pain in the Joints
  • Improving Sleep
  • Reducing Bouts of Depression and Anxiety

If you start a Long COVID treatment practice in your physical therapy practice, you should integrate these goals into the regimen you set up for your patients.

What are Other Treatments That Can Compliment Physical Therapy for Long COVID?

In addition to physical therapy, the following treatments may be prescribed to patients suffering from Long COVID in order to assist in the recovery process:

  1. Relaxation techniques that will assist in fatigue and sleep complications
  2. Including medications that can assist in alleviating certain symptoms such as headaches, joint aches, and muscle pain.
  3. Counseling for mental and emotional health issues – such as anxiety.
  4. Treating underlying health issues that could be impacted by Long COVID, such as diabetes.
  5. Olfactory training sessions to help regain a sense of smell.

A Long COVID treatment team may consist of many healthcare providers, such as doctors, physical therapists, occupational therapists, counselors, and clinicians. The primary care provider will typically make referrals or recommend programs and/or classes that will help in recovery, based on each patient’s individual needs.

Who May Benefit from Post-Acute COVID Physical Therapy?

Each person has their own unique experience with Long COVID. The most serious of cases include respiratory issues on top of cardiac issues on top of neurological issues on top of gastrointestinal issues. Nearly every symptom of Long COVID can be addressed by a physical therapist. This includes the following:

  • Shortness of Breath – with or without deficits in terms of oxygen saturation
  • Fatigue
  • Pain and Soreness in Muscles
  • Muscle Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Generalized Deconditioning
  • Gastrointestinal Issues
  • Nausea
  • Loss of Sensation or Numbness and Tingling

What is Long COVID Rehabilitation and Recovery?

There are many rehabilitation and recovery treatments that may be administered to those that have Long COVID. These include the following:

  1. Breathing exercises that will help with the diaphragmatic functionality
  2. Breathing exercises that help with autonomic system functionality
  3. Soft tissue mobilization exercises and stretching
  4. General exercises to improve endurance and impairments in breathing.
  5. Cardiopulmonary exercises

Initiating Treatment

If you set up a Long COVID treatment program at your physical therapy practice, you should start with an initial assessment with a physical therapist and order follow -up treatments by a team of trained clinicians in your facility. Each patient should be given an individuals treatment plan based on their needs. It is important to work closely with both the patient and their primary care provider during the treatment to boost the outcome of the patient.

Studies show that as soon as a patient is able to tolerate physical activity, they should start a physical therapy program as it will provide a boost to their recovery from Long COVID. The symptoms associated with Long COVID often result in a significant decline which will negatively impact the patient’s overall quality of life.

The American Physical Therapy Association has stated that physical therapy services help in improving outcomes directly related to the impairments that are cardiopulmonary and musculoskeletal-based and the general quality of life of the patient.

By offering this treatment at your practice, you will be offering a much-needed service that is not offered at many other physical therapy practices. This may prove to provide you with a competitive edge that will result in massive profits for your practice. As cases of Long COVID continue to rise, so will the demand for such services. You may even collaborate with other types of therapists to offer a well-rounded treatment plan that covers many symptoms associated with Long COVID – the choice is yours.

Our Network

If you are considering adding Long COVID rehabilitation and recovery treatments to your physical therapy practice, we here at Colorado Physical Therapy Network encourage you to join us. We offer tools, resources, and connections that can help you grow your practice and boost your patient outcomes. Our network can help make a difference in the way that you do business. We are organized to support physical therapists, occupational therapists, and SLP independent practices by providing a group structure to promote an environment of increased levels of mutual cooperation among caregivers, professionals, payors, and patients. To learn more, we encourage you to contact us today by calling the following number: 303-757-7004

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