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Long Covid: Effects and How PT Can Help

With a new wave of Covid-19 infections beginning to spring up, it’s timely to discuss Long Covid, a phenomenon which we now have more information about now that we’ve been collectively dealing with Covid for a few years and the long-term effects of infection are becoming known. 

What is Long Covid?

After an infection with Covid-19, many people deal with a wide range of lingering effects, many of which were not symptoms of their initial illness. “Long Covid” is a catch-all term used to refer to long-lasting ill effects of Covid-19 infection. Research is beginning to point toward certain risk factors for developing long Covid, including:

  • Severe Covid-19 infection which required hospitalization

  • Underlying health issues such as obesity, diabetes, or auto-immune diseases

  • Infection with particular variants

  • Being unvaccinated

  Some issues that people experience long-term after a bout of Covid include:

Symptoms of Long Covid

  • Chronic fatigue

  • Joint and muscle aches

  • Numbness in the extremities 

  • “Brain Fog” or other kinds of cognitive impairment such as memory issues

  • Dizziness

  • Heart palpitations 

  • Shortness of breath or persistent cough

How Can Physical Therapy Help?

Many of these issues will require ongoing treatment and monitoring. Closely monitoring your vitals, particularly your heart rate, is very important in suspected cases of Long COVID due to the potential impacts on your cardiovascular system. Your physical therapist may be able to help with some of the symptoms of Long Covid, for example leading you through low-impact exercises to help strengthen the muscles around your joints to help reduce joint pain, and overall strength exercises which can help lessen overall symptoms of fatigue by making sure isolated muscles aren’t overused by compensating for other, underdeveloped muscles. They may also be able to help you with breathing exercises for pulmonary rehabilitation, to help overcome shortness of breath issues and lead you through exercises to bolster your cardiovascular performance. It's important to note that current research suggests that “less is more” may be the philosophy you should adhere to when exercising with suspected Long COVID, as overexertion can make things worse.

On top of specifically targeted physical therapies, the benefit of exercise on mental health should be mentioned, as Long Covid sufferers have higher incidence of depression and anxiety. In general, working with a physical therapist can help to promote overall wellbeing in those experiencing Long Covid without resorting to medication or more invasive interventions. 


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