By: Dr. Crystal Shannon PT, DPT
Cadence Physical Therapy Co, Buffalo Grove
To date, 32 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with the coronavirus disease 2019, also known as COVID-19.1 Therefore, it is understandable why you can’t go a day without hearing about COVID-19; as it has drastically impacted all of our lives. COVID-19 is defined by the World Health Organization, WHO, as an infectious disease and was declared a pandemic in early March 2020. 1 It is spread through droplets in the air.1 Individuals with comorbidities such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease and cancer are at a greater risk for developing the serious illness.1,2 It has been known to affect an individual’s ability to breathe, their energy level, muscle strength, and sense of taste and smell that’s why individuals affected by the virus should seek out a physical therapist.
COVID-19 symptoms can vary from mild to severe respiratory illness. According to the WHO, common symptoms include fever, dry cough and fatigue. 1 While less common symptoms are loss of taste or smell, nasal congestion, headache, muscle or joint pain, nausea, diarrhea, chills or dizziness. 1,2 Severe symptoms include shortness of breath, loss of appetite, high temperature, confusion and persistent pain or pressure in the chest.1,2
While most individuals recover in weeks to month, some do not. ‘Long-Haul COVID’ or ‘Long COVID’ are symptoms that last for more than 12 weeks after being infected with the COVID virus.1 Long COVID symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, joint pain, muscle pain, dizziness upon standing, cough, memory and concentration problems. 2 These symptoms have been known to “relapse and remit” and can be triggered by physical or mental activity.2,3
Physical therapists are trained health professionals that specialize in movement science. They can monitor vitals such as heart rate, blood pressure, respiration rate, blood saturation levels and rate of perceived exertion during supervised exercises to avoid relapsing of their symptoms. They can incorporate breathing techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing and pursed lip breathing to assist with shortness of breath, breathing difficulties and SpO2 levels. They can provide education on body mechanics to promote energy conservation. They can improve balance with strengthening, neuromuscular reeducation and stabilization exercises; and provide education on techniques to diminish their risk for falling. They can treat muscle and joint pain with stretching, active range of motion, manual intervention and various modalities. Physical therapy is a great option for individuals that suffer from long COVID symptoms to improve their strength, stamina and improve their quality of life!
- int. 2021. Coronavirus. [online] Available at: <https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus#tab=tab_1> [Accessed 2 May 2021].
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2021. COVID-19 and Your Health. [online] Available at: <https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/long-term-effects.html> [Accessed 2 May 2021].
- 2021. Long COVID. [online] Available at: <https://physio-pedia.com/Long_COVID?utm_source=physiopedia&utm_medium=search&utm_campaign=ongoing_internal> [Accessed 2 May 2021].