Long COVID is a condition in which individuals continue to experience symptoms even after the initial recovery period from COVID-19. These symptoms can include fatigue, shortness of breath, difficulty concentrating, joint pain, and many others. Physiotherapy can be an essential component of the multidisciplinary approach to managing long COVID.
What is Long-Covid?
The “Long COVID” official case definition from the World Health Organization (WHO) is:
Post COVID-19 condition occurs in individuals with a history of probable or confirmed SARS CoV-2 infection, usually three months from the onset of COVID-19 with symptoms that last for at least two months and cannot be explained by an alternative diagnosis. Common symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, cognitive dysfunction and generally have an impact on everyday functioning.
Physiotherapists can help develop personalized treatment plans that target these specific impairments and help people regain their function and independence.
There are multiple suggested mechanisms involved in long COVID, many of which are also suggested for other invisible illnesses such as ME/CFS and fibromyalgia. Some of these include:
– Pro-inflammatory state via production of cytokines and other chemical mediators
– Autonomic dysfunction
– Abnormal coagulation
– Chronic neuroinflammation
– Changes to blood/brain and blood/lung barriers
There is ongoing research dedicated to the understanding of this condition and we will begin to know more and more as this continues.
Management of Long-COVID
Physiotherapy is one part of a multidisciplinary management approach for this condition. Part of our role involves:
– Education around activity pacing, self-management strategies
– Management of breathing impairments (through breath techniques or postural changes)
– Decrease of pain (through manual therapy, appropriate movement, or advice around pain management tools)
– Development of appropriate exercise programs including strength and cardio
– Support in navigating flare ups
– Consideration of other conditions (musculoskeletal or otherwise)
– Appropriate referral to other support services such as exercise physiology or psychology.
In conclusion, physiotherapy can be a valuable tool in the management of long COVID. By working with individuals with long COVID to develop personalized treatment plans, physiotherapists can target specific impairments and help them regain their function and independence. Physiotherapists can also provide education and support, which can be critical in helping individuals manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. As we learn more about this conditon, it is likely that physiotherapists will continue to play an important role in the multidisciplinary management of this condition. If you have questions about how we can help reach out at 1300 842 850 or book an appointment online here.