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What is Long COVID?

And how can physiotherapy help?

1 in 10 of people with COVID-19 will exhibit symptoms for a period of 12 weeks or longer.

Long COVID has been preliminarily defined as the presence of signs and symptoms that develop during or following an infection consistent with COVID-19 which continue for 12 weeks or more. Typically, it is referred to as acute COVID-19 until 4 weeks and ongoing COVID-19 from 4 to 12 weeks.

Many people living with the disease were previously fit and healthy.

Long COVID affects people who have been hospitalised with acute COVID-19 and those who recovered at home. Individuals who have experienced either mild or severe COVID-19 can go on to have prolonged symptoms or develop Long COVID.

Long COVID is a multi-system disease.

There are over 200 listed symptoms which occur in variable combinations and can fluctuate in both predictable and unpredictable patterns of flare-ups and remissions.

Most common symptoms after six months:

• Extreme exhaustion (fatigue)

• Post-exertional symptom exacerbation (PESE)

• Problems with memory and concentration (brain fog).

How can physiotherapy help?

Physiotherapists are crucial in early and ongoing rehabilitation for people recovering from severe COVID-19. They can help with:

• early mobilisation and getting moving again

• simple exercises

• getting back to the activities of daily living

• lung recovery

• managing breathlessness

• coping with fatigue

• finding the balance between being active and taking rest

It takes time to recover from a severe illness. A physiotherapist can help people manage their symptoms and work with them to support their recovery.

A physiotherapist can ensure exercises prescribed as part of a rehabilitation programme are restorative and do not increase symptoms. Long COVID is different for everyone. People who have had severe cases of COVID-19 will need rehabilitation to recover from the effects of ventilation/oxygen support, prolonged immobilisation and bed rest.

World Physical Therapy Day 2021

The focus for this year’s World PT Day 2021 (September 8) is the role of physiotherapists in the treatment and management of people affected by Long COVID. World PT Day is observed to generate awareness about the crucial contribution physiotherapists make to society, enabling people to be mobile, well, and independent.

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