How to treat persistent Covid with physical therapy

Different methods of physical therapy treatment are effective in the management of chronic Covid. Training one's body to withstand activity using stretching, aerobics, strength, and balancing exercises.

How to treat persistent Covid with physical therapy
Methods of physical therapy for treating chronic Covid. Photo by Annie Spratt / Unsplash

The term persistent Covid has been used to describe the presence of signs and symptoms that develop during or after an infection with Covid-19 that continue for 12 weeks or more and are not explained by an alternative diagnosis.

It includes a constellation of symptoms including fatigue, shortness of breath, weakness, and muscle or joint pain, among others, and these symptoms impact a person's daily performance.

Physical therapy can help in the treatment of persistent Covid through different strategies. Improving exercise tolerance through stretching, aerobic training exercises, strengthening exercises, and balance training.

In addition, respiratory physical therapy can help strengthen the muscles that help us breathe and therefore decrease fatigue and shortness of breath. The ultimate goal will be to improve the person's quality of life and functionality.

For those suffering from this condition, I would recommend adopting some strategies that will help manage and control fatigue, tiredness, and dyspnea.

How to treat persistent Covid with physical therapy

Plan the activities you are going to do and try not to overexert yourself.

Try to break down tasks that seem difficult into smaller parts and alternate easier activities with more difficult ones.

Take frequent, short breaks, which are better than taking fewer, but longer ones. Rest before you burn out.

Do not stop doing things that make you get tired of breathing, because, if you stop using your muscles, they will weaken, and that will generate more difficulty to perform activities.

Exercise or physical activity is an excellent option. Try to gradually increase the amount of exercise you do. You can start with short walks or strength exercises with little weight and then increase the time, intensity and repetitions.

Relaxation breathing exercises can also help to reduce the feeling of shortness of breath and fatigue. Some very simple but very useful exercises are diaphragmatic breathing exercises. They are performed lying on your back with your knees bent and the bottom of your feet resting on the bed. Then we place our hands on our abdomen.

We close our mouths and inhale through the nose and take the inhaled air towards the abdomen where our hands are. We should feel how our abdomen rises as we do this. Then we take the air out slowly through the nose. The breaths should be deep and can be repeated for a minute or longer.

If the discomfort persists and the person considers that it greatly affects their quality of life and functionality in the activities of daily living, I would recommend that they see a Respiratory Physiotherapist for assessment and individualized treatment.

By Dr. Dulce María Flores Cano, GSU academic. The author holds a Master's degree in Rehabilitation Science and Physiotherapy in Internal Conditions from the Universiteit Antwerpen in Antwerp, Belgium. She is currently a lecturer in the Bachelor of Physical Therapy at the UAG.