The definition of Long Covid is symptoms extending beyond 12 weeks and it is not known why some people’s recovery is prolonged. It is thought that it may relate to a weakened antibody response, inflammatory reaction, deconditioning or post traumatic stress. The most common symptoms include a cough, fever and extreme tiredness (fatigue) which may come and go, but others include shortness of breath, chest pain, headaches, cognitive issues such as memory and concentration, muscle pain, GI tract issues, rashes depression and many more. After 6 months fatigue may still be a component, often triggered by stress or physical activity.
Whilst your GP is best placed to monitor your on-going symptoms and refer onwards as required, a physiotherapist can assist you to build exercise tolerance, improve your breathing pattern, provided advice and education on self management and return to normal activities. They can also deliver techniques for mindfulness and relaxation.
It’s important to note that there are on-going concerns regarding increasing physical activity too quickly and the risk of chronic fatigue type conditions and cardiac complications. Therefore it is vital that a graded return to activity is undertaken; a physiotherapist is ideally placed to monitor this and progress rehabilitation safely.
How can you help yourself?
Fatigue – set realistic short and long term goals. Accept that your energy will fluctuate and learn to modify what you do. This may include frequent rest periods and stopping an activity when it is too challenging. Long Covid does not respond to being pushed too hard and it may actually delay your recovery. A 5-10 minute walk once a day may be a starting point.
Anxiety and Isolation – Utilise technology to ensure you stay in touch with your social circles. Whilst you might not be allowed to see your friends and family face to face at present, pick up the telephone or arrange a video call. Build a routine, make sure you get dressed, eat regular healthy meals and don’t watch the news!
Breathing – Start by placing one hand on your stomach. Breathe in for a count of five seconds, in through your nose and feel the stomach rise. Slowly breath out through your mouth for five seconds and feel the chest and stomach fall. Repeat 6 times.
How can physio help?
Reduced movement and function – Your physio can prescribe appropriate exercises to build strength and confidence. They can monitor your oxygen levels using a pulse oximeter or chart your breathlessness to ensure you are exercising at an appropriate and safe level.
Musculo-skeletal pain – Utilising hands-on treatment to mobilise stiff joints and soft tissue techniques to alleviate muscle pain. Alternative therapies such as acupuncture can also be used. Advice and education are essential to set realistic goals and expectations.
Balance – Challenging your balance and proprioception within a safe environment using a variety of exercise equipment.
Breathlessness – Teaching diaphragmatic breathing techniques, relaxation and mindfulness.
Cough – positioning to improve respiratory function and teach chest clearance techniques.
NHS England is setting up 69 Long Covid clinics nationwide so the symptoms are being taken very seriously. The end is hopefully in sight with the successful roll-out of the vaccine, but for some experiencing Long Covid symptoms there’s still a way to go. Help is available for those wanting some assistance, and Chapman Physiotherapy has been rehabilitating long Covid patients in their gym rehab setting for several months with great success. If you are still suffering with the after effects, have a think about the tips above or find someone who can help you.
Contact Chapman Physiotherapy today on 01302 321245.