WHAT IS LONG-COVID AND WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT?

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Long Covid-19 and Rehabilitation

Long COVID is a term used to describe an illness when the symptoms of COVID continue for a period of 12 weeks or more. Symptoms can include persistent respiratory problems, headaches, fatigue, depression, heart palpitations and increased heart rate, pins and needles, numbness, poor sleep, chest pain, muscle or joint pain, altered sense of taste or small and brain fog.  Some say it is similar to the symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. For more information see Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd’s opinion piece on Long-COVID syndrome and COVID-19 vaccination dated Sept 1, 2021: https://www.health.gov.au/news/deputy-chief-medical-officer-professor-michael-kidds-opinion-piece-on-long-covid-syndrome-and-covid-19-vaccination

The disease is a public health concern with 1.5% of the UK population self-reporting long-COVID in July 2021 according to the UK Office of National Statistics and the impact is not insignificant with substantial increased health care burden and productivity and economic losses. Although this is a relatively new problem recovery has been reported to take as long as 12 month’s with some diagnosed from Wuhan still struggling as reported in The Lancet. (https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(21)01900-0/fulltext)

Long COVID will occur in 1 in 10 of all COVID cases and safe and effective rehabilitation is a fundamental part of recovery. It is important to note that vaccination reduces the risk of developing long-Covid by 50% according to Kings College London research in the UK (from the British Heart Foundation website bhf.org.uk)

Rehabilitation for Long COVID must be tailored to the individual, depending on their symptoms, goals and preferences. Interestingly The Lancet reports that ‘as few as only 0·4% of patients with COVID-19 said that they had participated in a professional rehabilitation programme’.

The World Health Organization recommends that Long COVID rehabilitation should include educating people about resuming everyday activities conservatively, at an appropriate pace that is safe and manageable for energy levels within the limits of current symptoms, and exertion should not be pushed to the point of fatigue or worsening of symptoms.

The National Centre for Health and Care Excellence published guidelines in December 2020 to deal with the emerging issue of Long COVID https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng188

Effective rehabilitation interventions to support self-management of symptoms may include activity pacing and heart rate monitoring. A physiotherapist can help you manage your activity levels for Long COVID with pacing and heart rate monitoring.

Post-exertional symptom exacerbation (PESE) is most often triggered by physical activity and exercise. A physiotherapist can help you manage your activities to minimise PESE.

A physiotherapist can also help you with breathing exercises to manage your respiratory symptoms such as cough and shortness of breath.

Graded exercise therapy should not be used, particularly when post-exertional symptom exacerbation is present. This seems counter to logical thought and that’s where help from your physio will be imperative.

If you are suffering with Long Covid and feel unsure about how to manage your recovery, getting the right sort of help can ease your worries and help to ensure your recovery is as seamless as possible.

If you are suffering with the effects of long COVID and want help call 3200 8541 and click on the link below to access the Activity Tracker you can use to monitor activity and symptoms.

https://world.physio/sites/default/files/2021-06/WPTD2021-ActivityTracker-Final-v1.pdf