Let us face it, COVID-19 is still around and not going anywhere anytime soon. As this virus looms over us all, there are many questions that continue to go unanswered. Many of those questions have to do with the severity of symptoms one may experience if infected and what the recovery process will look like.
Recovery from COVID-19 is not a linear process. It is something that is incredibly unique and individualized from person to person. There is no one set of guidelines set forth by medical professionals discussing rehabilitating from this virus. As this illness is something that is multi-faceted and affects many systems of the body, there are many unknowns. No person’s recovery will be the same.
We often get the question, “When can I start exercising again and how long will it take for me to feel normal?”. Everyone is impacted by coronavirus differently. Some people have extensive cardiovascular and pulmonary involvement requiring hospitalization, meanwhile, others experience something like a common cold. Some may experience brain fog, chronic fatigue, myalgia, arthralgia and even develop chronic pain. What many people do not realize is that just because you have a minor case, it does not mean that you will not have long term deficits. Recent information demonstrates that even a mild case of coronavirus can have long-lasting effects on your heart health.
Rehabilitation from coronavirus will look different for every individual impacted by the virus and this is where a Physical Therapist plays a pivotal role. Some of the main symptoms of post-acute COVID-19 infection include severe fatigue and exhaustion, tachycardia, decreased strength, decreased endurance, shortness of breath, arthralgia, myalgia, chronic pain, anxiety, depression, and PTSD. As physical therapists are well-versed in the rehabilitation procedures involving the biopsychosocial model of care, cardiopulmonary, neuromuscular, and musculoskeletal systems, we are well equipped to work with individuals with many of the symptoms listed above.
If you are struggling to regain independence or return to your normal activities of daily living, we’re here to help. One of the most important reasons to involve your physical therapist in your COVID recovery is for them to assist you when implementing a graded return to activity protocol. This could include something as simple as standing to wash your dishes. Although guidelines have been released recommending time frames to return to athletic activities after isolation and active infection, they may not work for you. These guidelines recommend anywhere from 10 days post-infection for asymptomatic individuals to up to 20 days, plus cardiac screening, for those with moderate cases. What one needs to remember, is that even an individual with mild cases may fall into the “long-haulers” category with symptoms lasting for prolonged periods of time post-infection.
A physical therapist serves an important role during the implementation of a return to activity program to assist in monitoring health vitals to rule out continued lung/heart pathology and the need for further medical work-up. We are important figures in preventing secondary fatigue and poor rehabilitation strategies during COVID-19 recovery. In studies performed during the SAR-S outbreak in 2003, it was recommended that individuals recovering from the virus be monitored by a health professional for 3-6 months post-infection when returning to activity. This helped to prevent secondary health consequences such as unfortunate sudden cardiac events or blood clots like those experienced during COVID-19 recovery.
At Feldman Physical Therapy and Performance our goal is to emphasize the needs of our clients. We evaluate and treat you as a person to help you meet your goals. We want individuals to get back to doing the things they want to do and love to do. To us, that is what recovery truly means. To help individuals heal from COVID-19, we not only listen to our patients, but we utilize wearable technology and live monitoring systems to assist our patients in tracking their health and wellness metrics to monitor their recovery and possible adverse health events. One of the most important pieces of advice we can provide to individuals recovering from coronavirus, is to listen to your body and do not try to return to activity too fast.
The medical community is learning daily about the unique ways in which COVID-19 impacts those who have been infected. What we do know, is that no two persons’ recovery will be the same and many of those infected experience a medical cascade of events impacting their cardiovascular & pulmonary functions, musculoskeletal system, hematologic system, and gastrointestinal systems impairing their daily lives. If you are struggling with your recovery from COVID-19 and want to regain your strength and independence, do not hesitate to reach out to us with any questions you may have.