Coronavirus is a term we are all too familiar with now and we understand what symptoms to look out for if we come down with it. But what does the recovery from it look like? Particularly if you have had a severe case and have required hospitalisation. People are reporting many ongoing symptoms, such as weakness and fatigue, breathing problems and muscular aches and pains, for many weeks.
The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy have warned of a “tsunami” of survivors of the disease requiring rehabilitation, in hospital but also in the community following discharge or a severe case of Coronavirus but didn’t require a hospital admission. The concern is that without the right recovery strategy and support, there could be a bounce-back into hospital with other issues, such as infections or a decrease in mobility due to joint stiffness and weakness and an increase in the risk of falls.
What can Physiotherapy do to help?
Physiotherapists have a wealth of knowledge and resources to help in these situations. They are professionals that can be involved in your care from being critically ill to the complete restoration of your normal day-to-day life. For those who were unlucky enough to require critical care, physiotherapists will have played a part in helping to clear your chest whilst on a ventilator, through to helping you sit on the edge of the bed and sit out in a chair for the first time. They will be present throughout your stay in hospital until discharge, helping to build your strength and mobility, keep your chest clear and regain your independence, alongside other rehabilitation speciliasts such as Occupational Therapsits and dieticians.
In the Community
After discharge, or having recovered from Coronavirus at home, rehabilitation from the virus is ongoing, even once medically well. Suffering from illnes for a few weeks can leave you physically weak as your muscles and joints have not been used fully. Physiotherapists can continue to support you to complete your recovery:
- Respiratory care. With a thorough knowledge of the respiratory system and how breathing exercises and positioning can help clear the chest and prevent future chest infections, we can help recover lung function
- Alleivate aches and pains. We can advise on pain relief mechanisms, provide manual therapy if required and educate on the causes and whether further intervention is required
- Joint stiffness and weakness. Physiotherapists are experts in physical activity and how to regain muscle fitness without putting the body under too much strain. We can assess for where you are now and prescribe bespoke exercises for you with continued guidance on how to progress them
- Mobility and balance. Balance reactions can be slowed with muscular weakness and reduced reaction time of the nervous system. With a wealth of techniques at our disposal, we can help re-educate the balance reactions and improve confidence to reduce the risk of falls
- Fatigue. This appears to be a striking ongoing symptom of the virus. How much activity a person can tolerate is very individual and needs careful consideration when setting a rehabilitation programme. Not just physical tolerance but cognitive tolerance too. Physiotherapists can assess for the right level of activity, advise on managing these symptoms at home and help set joint short term goals to help with motivation. They can also advise on sleep techniques – most important when recvoery mostly happens when we are alseep.
This is now the new challenge facing our health care system. Once the acute phase of the virus has passed in an individual, it’s getting them back to full fitness once again. For those of you recovering at home, our exercise programmes on our You Tube channel may help guide you for the first steps to recovery. Set yourself small, realistic targets of how many of each exercise to complete and listen to your body to how it feels afterwards. Be patient with yourself during this recovery. This is a new virus, no one really knows how long it will take to recover for some people and each one of us is unique.
At NYP we are offering free telephone/video advice for anyone in the local area needing support and guidance following recovery from the actute stage of the illness. Once our clinic is open once again we will be able to see people face to face for more detailed and bespoke advice if required. Watch this space for our announcement when we are open for face-to-face appointments once again. Give us a call to find out more.