For some people, COVID-19 and 2020 were an inconvenience. For others, COVID-19 was a terrible life-altering event. Many people who caught COVID are still suffering from long-term symptoms months after the virus was contracted. These people are called COVID Long Haulers. 

With so many unknowns with COVID-19, recovery is not always straightforward, but regardless of your stage of recovery, physical therapy can help. Physical therapy can relieve the symptoms experienced by COVID Long Haulers, build strength for fall risk prevention, and vastly improve your quality of life post-COVID.

What Is Long Haul COVID and How Has it Helped Healthcare?

COVID Long Haulers are people experiencing symptoms long after their infection period. One positive to come from COVID-19 is virtual and mobile healthcare, these avenues have opened so many doors for people suffering from illnesses that leave them housebound, like those with chronic fatigue syndrome, a disease that causes severe malaise and prevents them from l” (https://www.jospt.org/doi/full/10.2519/jospt.2021.0106). 

Why Does COVID Make Recovery Complicated?

We usually think of exhaustion after a workout to be a good thing.  It means you worked hard and your body will recover better than it was before.  You might have a great night’s sleep after a good workout and feel a little sore the next morning.  All good signs that you successfully stressed your body to the point of rebuilding better. 

However with Long COVID, “Exercise can be harmful, sometimes life threatening, and should be avoided” (https://www.jospt.org/doi/full/10.2519/jospt.2021.0106).  Symptoms are not simple fatigue that you can push through.  Symptoms instead result in “a severe combination of flu-like and neurological symptoms and crushing fatigue” (https://www.jospt.org/doi/full/10.2519/jospt.2021.0106). 

It’s recommended that you have a healthcare team devoted to rebuilding your health if you’re a COVID Long Hauler. This team should include a doctor of physical therapy to safely ease you back into your normal routine and help you overcome mental roadblocks along the way.

Physical Therapist with Patient on Exercise Ball

What Activity Level Can Trigger Long COVID Symptoms?

Most daily activities where there is physical or cognitive exertion; the kicker is that the onset of symptoms can be anywhere from 24 to 72 hours after the original incident, and can persist for days, weeks, or become permanent. In addition to crushing fatigue, COVID Long Haulers experience deconditioning or muscle loss from bedrest. 

Physical therapists constantly assess and reassess what daily activity might have triggered a patient’s pain.  The cause can be as clear cut as, “I reached up for a glass, and it hurt my shoulder,” but most often we tease out when the time frame the pain was aggravated compared to what they were doing throughout the day.

Timing is very important in our ability to decipher a patient’s internal code of when and why the offending tissue feels offended.  With minimal activity required to provoke the symptoms coupled with the potential for a delayed onset of symptoms, the question is not how much exercise can you do, but what kind and how much regular daily activity will your body accept without triggering severe symptoms days later.

I Know a COVID Long Hauler – How Can I Help?

Physical therapists use similar assessments to treat people with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic low back pain, and a myriad of conditions that the medical community has a hard time defining and treating. All of these conditions, along with COVID Long Haulers, can be swept under the rug by friends, family, co-workers, employers, and even some members of the medical community. 

Many people have this preconceived notion that unless we can see something wrong on an x-ray, MRI, or lab test, that the person must be making it up. That they may be using it as an excuse to get out of work, for attention, or some other means.  This is simply not the case, these symptoms are real and debilitating, but COVID-19 might make COVID Long Haulers fearful of admitting they continue to experience symptoms.

What Can You Do if You or a Loved One Is Experiencing Long COVID?

Stop, Rest, and Pace.  Try to avoid the natural tendency to think of this the same way you would other conditions. You will not feel better the more you push yourself.

Long Covid

https://www.jospt.org/doi/full/10.2519/jospt.2021.0106

Employ a medical team that understands the limitations of Long Haul COVID that can help on your journey through this ordeal. Celebrate the small wins. Find happiness and enjoyment in everyday living. Live Your Best Life.

If you know someone that is experiencing long-term COVID symptoms, Or any other fatigue-causing condition for that matter – show compassion, empathy, and help them if they’re struggling to find a team of passionate healthcare providers.

Embedded in this article is a table of resources to learn more about Long Covid.  Click “view popup” under “Table”.

Conclusion

Put your health first, and start building your team of trusted healthcare professionals that will keep you living life to the fullest. If you or a loved one is experiencing Long COVID symptoms, click the button below to reach out to our doctor of physical therapy. We will help you on your journey towards rebuilding your health.

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About Live Life Physiotherapy

Live Life Physiotherapy provides an COVID-19-friendly alternative to travelling to a physical therapy clinic, through mobile physical therapy. We provide outpatient care to San Diego, La Mesa, El Cajon, Santee, and the surrounding area.

Outpatient physical therapy includes but isn’t limited to; telehealth physical therapy, rehabilitation physical therapy, labral tears, sciatica, low back pain, elderly fall prevention, orthopedic and sports physical therapy. Reach out today so we can help you Live Life, the way you want to live it.

References

Décary S, Gaboury I, Poirier S, Garcia C, Simpson S, Bull M, Brown D, Daigle F. Humility and Acceptance: Working Within Our Limits With Long COVID and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2021 May;51(5):197-200. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2021.0106. PMID: 33930983.