Physiotherapy in Edmonton for Long Covid Related Issues
As a healthy, active person, when you caught COVID-19, you likely assumed everything would be okay. You had the regular symptoms like fever, cough, shortness of breath, loss of taste and fatigue. But after a couple of weeks, you felt mostly better, so you went back to work.
It took a few weeks after that before you really started to get back to your normal activity level, like playing sports, running, or going to the gym. Surprisingly, you noticed you were short of breath sometimes. And soon, the episodes of heavy fatigue have made it so that keeping up with even regular life is harder. You’ve started doing less, generally, and what you are doing is not up to your usual standards.
You’ve taken some extra time off work and feel like you just can’t keep up anymore.
It’s been over a month since you first got COVID-19. Could these symptoms still be about that? Don’t most people fully recover and go on with their lives, like a regular cold or flu?
Most People Have Symptoms Over a Month After Getting COVID
Many people assume that most people just recover from COVID and things are fine, but that’s not what the statistics say. About 2 out of 3 people who get COVID still have symptoms after four weeks, well beyond the time of the active virus itself.
66% of patients with positive SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) test results (Wanga et al., 2021) experience persistent symptoms more than four weeks after the initial infection
That’s now the definition of “Long COVID,” and it can last for months or even years. What’s surprising is that “most” people don’t “just recover” like most people assume. Although the virus itself leaves our bodies within a couple of weeks, most people have lingering symptoms for at least a while, often that interfere with normal daily life.
Physiotherapy Can Make a Difference to Long COVID Symptoms
The instructions for recovering from the COVID-19 virus are to rest, in quarantine, and wait it out. That’s fine if you recover within the 2 weeks. Less acceptable if a month later you still have symptoms like almost 7 in 10 people do.
COVID “long-haulers” deal with symptoms for many months (or even years) after they “should” have recovered from the initial infection. Research suggests that about 1 in 10 COVID-19 patients end up as “long haulers” with significant long-term symptoms.
Physiotherapy plays a vital role in the recovery of “long COVID” to help you return to your prior functioning levels. Once a month has passed from your initial infection, if you have residual symptoms, it is best to consult with a physiotherapist at Revive Spine and Sport Physiotherapy Clinic.
Research continues, so the “long haul” COVID condition is now officially “Post-Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 or PASC. SARS-CoV-2 is the name of the virus that causes COVID-19.
So, PASC is the lingering symptoms “long-haulers” face after the initial recovery phase after contracting COVID-19. Long COVID, or PASC, is somewhat unpredictable, but research continues. Symptoms, and severity, vary widely from patient to patient.
Some Symptoms of Long Covid (PASC)
There is a basic list of the most common long COVID symptoms, but some patients report different signs, too. Whatever your list of symptoms, be sure to document them and tell your physiotherapist at Revive Spine and Sport Physiotherapy Clinic in Edmonton.
- Shortness of breath
- Body aches
- Trouble focusing and concentrating.
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain
- Memory problems
- Low endurance
- No ability to exercise
- Problems with sleep
- Gastrointestinal symptoms
- Fast or pounding heart
- Brain fog
- Post-exertional malaise
The Most Common Long COVID Symptom – Fatigue
Fatigue is the most common symptom of long COVID. This fatigue goes well beyond being tired. After a rest and a good night’s sleep, PASC fatigue remains ever-present. It may be that after some small effort, like getting ready in the morning, you already feel extremely tired. You may feel like you have trouble thinking, concentrating, and even remembering.
After any viral infection, it is quite common to experience fatigue for a short time. After recovering from COVID, most fatigue lets up after a couple or three weeks. But if you are still feeling fatigued after a month, you have gone beyond even the extended expected recovery time.
Causes of Post-COVID Fatigue
Many factors can contribute to post-COVID fatigue. Everyone is different, but these factors may combine to create a sense of fatigue for you after recovering from COVID-19. Remember, you are not at fault! Post-COVID fatigue is very common, and the underlying cause is that you caught the virus.
- Continued Response – Your body may continue to respond to the virus even after the infection is better
- Combining with Another Serious Illness – For example, if you have pneumonia, the fatigue could take several months to resolve
- Poor Sleep Patterns – If you have trouble sleeping, fatigue may compound over time
- Anxiety, Depression, or Low Mood – It’s hard to say where the cycle starts, but the fatigue – low mood cycle is hard to break
- Lack of Physical Activity – Also a difficult cycle to break – fatigue makes it hard to exercise.
- High Pressure Lifestyle – Caregiving responsibilities, demanding work, and all the other activities that normally contribute to “being tired” build up to a higher level of fatigue.
Always tell your physiotherapist at Revive Spine and Sport Physiotherapy Clinic, if your fatigue is getting worse, is unchanged after a month, or you have any new symptoms.
Patients who have severe or extended long COVID are more likely to develop chronic fatigue syndrome. Your physiotherapist can guide you to gradually return to your normal activities.
Reduced Respiratory Function
No matter why a person has reduced respiratory function, their lifestyle becomes limited. Work becomes harder, physical activities reduce, and even the activities of daily living around the house can be difficult.
After COVID, many report that they have trouble walking up the stairs when beforehand they jogged for an hour 3 days a week. Others find just staying awake all day at work is difficult, when they used to be alert all day and stay up much later at night.
With higher levels of respiratory secretions, you may have diminished air entry into your lungs. Some patients have lung scarring even when their vital signs appeared normal during the time they had an active COVID infection.
Your physiotherapist at Revive Spine and Sport Physiotherapy Clinic in Edmonton will help you with deep breathing and core stability exercises. This focus on expanding your chest wall improves respiratory function.
Reduced Cardiac Endurance Levels
You don’t have to have a severe case of COVID-19 to have reduced cardiac endurance levels. Even a mild COVID-19 illness can create a 50% reduction in cardiac endurance.
Fortunately, physiotherapy can help. In a recent case study, a patient with long COVID-19 improved their cardiac endurance levels by 60% after working with a physiotherapist*.
Post-Exertional Malaise (PEM)
Post-exertional malaise (PEM) is when symptoms get worse after physical or mental activities. Your abilities may vary, so something you manage one day becomes far more difficult the next day.
Many symptoms may worsen after physical stress or mental work. Walking up the stairs can bring on the symptoms the same way as “thinking too hard.” These “post exertional symptoms” are not dangerous in and of themselves, but they sure affect your quality of life.
These increased symptoms could include:
- Brain fog
- Muscle aches
- Or any other symptom of long COVID
A physiotherapist can closely monitor your responses to exercise to support recovery and make sure your activities are not causing PEM or making your symptoms worse.
Physiotherapy Helps Long COVID (PASC)
Physiotherapists help COVID-19 long-haulers by treating PASC symptoms. After a thorough assessment, your physiotherapist at Revive Spine and Sport Physiotherapy Clinic in Edmonton will customize a program for you. You will likely have some activities to do at home, plus a schedule of physiotherapy appointments. Most long-haulers find a combination of physiotherapy treatments support improvement best.
Tiredness and fatigue during and even after an illness are quite common. Some serious illnesses leave patients fatigued for weeks or months as a normal part of recovery. But as you recover from these types of illnesses, you would expect to feel better every day.
With Long COVID, the fatigue after activities that were not difficult before makes this condition particularly troublesome. This change affects your quality of life and your ability to function as you expect.
Long COVID-19 is new, but research is ongoing. So far, physiotherapy seems to be an excellent choice to help long haulers. Physiotherapists regularly treat chronic fatigue syndrome and pneumonia, which combine to look much like the symptoms of PASC.
If you had COVID-19 over a month ago and still have symptoms, call Revive Spine and Sport Physiotherapy Clinic in Edmonton for a Long COVID assessment.
*(Mayer et al., 2021)