It’s cold and flu season, in addition to COVID-19 season. While the flu can certainly have detrimental effects, COVID-19 has been known to cause lingering problems that last for weeks or months after someone has been infected. Some of these side effects, according to the World Health Organization, include heart and lung issues, anxiety or depression, fatigue, or muscle or joint pain.
Where does physical therapy fit in?
If someone is unlucky enough to have been hospitalized from COVID-19, rehabilitation starts there. Since COVID-19 has a strong pulmonary component, teaching patients how to breathe from the diaphragm can be a helpful first step. Further, remembering to exhale completely, as well as inhale, is helpful in complete air exchange. If someone has accumulated weakness from a long hospital stay, physical therapy can help improve strength and function so they can go home safely.
What happens after someone recovers from the illness, but they still don’t feel well?
This is where outpatient physical therapy services can be helpful, particularly with muscle weakness or pain, fatigue, and heart or lung damage. We closely monitor vital signs (such as heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure) to ensure that exercise is appropriate. Pulmonary (lung) function can improve with consistent care and training.
How long does it take to recover?
That depends on the person. Occasionally, hospital-acquired weakness can take months to improve. If someone was relatively healthy prior to infection, their rehabilitation may be shorter but that doesn’t mean it will be easy. Regaining strength in muscles, including muscles that help you breathe, takes a lot of hard work.
Can physical therapy help with fatigue?
Absolutely! While it feels counterintuitive, the best treatment for fatigue is exercise. It is possible, however, to exercise with too much intensity after a hospital stay – which can increase fatigue – but with the guidance of a physical therapist, we can appropriately dose exercise and allow for adequate rest.
Just as a reminder, our highly qualified physical therapists at Peak Form can help you get back on your feet, whether it’s from injury or illness. The healthier you are the better, so give us a call today for an in-person or Telehealth appointment!