Long COVID can affect anyone who’s had COVID-19, even those who’ve had mild illness or no symptoms initially. New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that nearly 1 in 5 U.S. adults who have had COVID-19 experience new or lingering symptoms that last three or more months after first contracting the virus. Physical therapists can play an essential role in managing symptoms of long COVID.
1. Physical therapists take a full body approach.
Physical therapists assess your overall well-being. They can develop a personalized treatment plan to address issues such as fatigue, respiratory function, and cardiac endurance. They can work and communicate with your primary care physician and can refer you to other health care providers if they feel you’d benefit from seeing another specialist. Physical therapists and physical therapist assistants collaborate with each other, and with other health professionals, to ensure that you receive the best care.
2. Physical therapists help you move safely.
Movement is essential to your recovery and your mental health. However, for some people, long COVID includes post-exertional malaise, or PEM, a worsening of symptoms after physical or mental activities. Your ability often may fluctuate — an activity that’s easily tolerated one day may exacerbate symptoms the next. Physical therapists develop prescribed exercise programs based on your symptoms and how your body responds and can monitor your symptoms, blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen levels to ensure your safety while doing exercises. This may include low-intensity stretches, strengthening exercises, and balance training.
3. Physical therapist help improve your quality of life.
Through patient education, a physical therapist can help you find the balance between rest and activity and identify the right kind and amount of movement you should get to improve your tolerance for everyday activities.