- Lian Yun-Perng, Physiotherapist
COVID-19 and Physiotherapy
Post-COVID conditions are a wide range of new, returning, or ongoing health problems people can experience for weeks or months after first being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. People commonly report experiencing different combinations of the following symptoms:
Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
Tiredness or fatigue
Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental activities
Difficulty thinking or concentrating (sometimes referred to as “brain fog”)
Chest or stomach pain
Joint or muscle pain
Dizziness on standing (lightheadedness)
Change in smell or taste
Effects of COVID-19 Illness or Hospitalisation
Hospitalisations and severe illnesses for lung-related diseases, including COVID-19, can cause health effects like severe weakness and exhaustion during the recovery period. On top of experiencing the initial symptoms of COVID-19, muscle wasting, bed sores, the inability to walk, move or sit are also being reported as post-COVID-19 effects.
The individual will also lose their functional abilities to feed, bathe and all other self care abilities. So, COVID-19 is not just another “flu” for some individuals.
Post-COVID-19 patient assessment by the physiotherapist – First consultation
It is recommended that the patient is assessed by a physiotherapist within the first 2 weeks after hospital discharge or after symptoms have subdued. This first consultation is used to gather more medical information about the patient. The physiotherapist will then measure and record the patient’s oxygen levels, heart rate and exercise capacity (stamina). Muscle strength, balancing ability and other functional abilities such as walking, moving or sitting will also be assessed.
Based on the obtained medical information, together with the patient’s specific needs and request, the physiotherapist will determine if there is an indication for physiotherapy.
The patients that require physiotherapy will experience reduced exercise capacity (stamina) and/or reduced physical activity levels. The approach is to gradually increase their activities of daily living and the physiotherapist will guide and teach them specific muscle exercises, breathing exercises, coughing techniques and relaxation positions to manage their symptoms and to promote recovery.
To minimise the risk of desaturations (low oxygen level) and overload:
Patient’s oxygen saturation will be measured prior to, during and after exercise or physical activities (the lowest limit during rest should be 90% and during exercise is 85%)
Patients should only perform physical exercises at home within the prescribed training parameters (frequency, intensity, time/duration and type).
Post-COVID-19 physiotherapy goals
The goal of physiotherapy is to enable the patient to return to pre- COVID-19 status as much as possible. It is reasonable to adopt the training principles from those with chronic lung diseases to post-COVID-19 patients. When test results show no severe restriction or risks, training frequency, intensity, time/duration and type of exercises may be gradually increased according to the patient’s capacity and ability.
Get in touch
Each individual has different needs and medical issues so there isn’t any fixed management or assessment approach. If you have doubts or questions, you can reach us at +6014-9631371 or send us a message here.
Thank you for reading.
Image credits from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/heres-the-damage-coronavirus-covid-19-can-do-to-your-lungs/ and World Physiotherapy