Most people who catch COVID-19 recover within about two weeks, but for others, the effect is much longer. No one knows exactly how many people end up with prolonged COVID; It is estimated that anywhere from 7.7 million to 23 million Americans may have it. This broad range reflects the fact that there is no universally accepted definition of prolonged COVID, although the World Health Organization defines it as a condition that “occurs in individuals with a probable or confirmed history of SARS CoV-2 infection, usually within three months of The onset of COVID-19 is symptomatic and lasts for at least 2 months and cannot be explained by an alternative diagnosis.”
What is clear is that a very large number of people experience symptoms that persist or clear up well after the virus has cleared their system. Shortness of breath, brain fog, fatigue, and an elevated heart rate or heart palpitations are among the most common problems, although insomnia, depression, dizziness, muscle aches, and gastrointestinal distress are also on the list, says Naomi Power, physiotherapist and COVID-19 Recovery Program Director. 19 at WakeMed in Raleigh, NC
The extent of these symptoms also varies widely. Bauer herself has been dealing with long-term covid since she contracted the virus nearly a year ago. “I used to be a runner; now I can’t even walk fast. I used to do 40-mile bike rides on weekends; now if I do I’m on the couch the rest of the day.” However, she describes her problems as mild to moderate, noting that some people who have been infected with Covid for a long time do not have enough stamina to get out of bed, while others have serious heart or lung problems.
Because of the wide range of symptoms and severity, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. What’s more, many people also have other health conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease that have worsened in the wake of COVID, says Monique Carruth, MD, a physical therapist and spokeswoman for the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Maryland. Physical Therapy Association (APTA). For these reasons, it’s wise to see your longtime primary care provider or COVID specialist before attempting to self-medicate in any way.
Once you’ve been evaluated by a doctor, it may also be helpful to seek an evaluation from a physical therapist, who can devise a plan aimed at improving strength, mobility, endurance, and even some breathing issues, says Brian Mooney, MD, an advanced clinical and physical therapist. Therapist at the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in New York. “When dealing with prolonged COVID, a person should have a comprehensive management plan from their medical provider focused on improving physical, mental, and social well-being,” she says. For some patients, “physiotherapy can be a vital part of this recovery plan.”
Ideally, physical therapy should be tailored to your specific problems. (You can find a physical therapist near you or a therapist who does telehealth visits at choosept.com.) But if you’d rather go the DIY route or wait to make an appointment, here are some physical therapy strategies you can try at home to combat common long-term COVID symptoms. .
cAmpat shortness of breath and anxiety
Two different breathing methods may help. to try to breathe with lips, Inhale slowly through your nose, then form a narrow “o” shape with your lips and blow forcefully through your mouth. “Imagine you smell roses or bacon, and then blow out a birthday candle,” says Carruth. “A long inhale brings rich oxygen into the lungs, then an exhale expels carbon dioxide.” Repeat five times.
Diaphragmatic breathing, which is also called belly breathing, is worth a try. Place your hands on your stomach, breathe in through your nose for a count of four, pause for a count of two, and then exhale slowly through your mouth for a count of six again. You should feel your stomach pressing against your hand as you inhale. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
To support the muscles that aid breathing, Mooney recommends the scapular retraction: Sit tall and engage your core while your arms are extended in front of you or bent at your waist. Pull your elbows toward your sides and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold for five seconds, then slowly relax. Repeat 5 to 10 times. This exercise also helps promote better posture.
While holding onto a supportive surface (like furniture), try a one-legged stance, Mooney suggests: Stand on one leg and try to maintain your balance, pinning perfectly for 15 to 30 seconds before you put your foot down and switch sides. “As you improve your balance, you may less support your hand on the surface in front of you,” she says.
Sitting to standing is another technique that helps build balance. Sit toward the edge of the chair, holding onto the armrest with either or both hands, and then slowly stand up while maintaining good posture and engaging your leg muscles. Repeat 10 to 15 times if you can.
Increased range of motion
if I were Not Experiencing any dizziness or shortness of breath but feeling muscle tightness in your shoulders, back, hips, or thighs, Carruth suggests trying a forward-folding chair: While seated (ideally in a firm chair without wheels) with feet flat on the floor, slowly bend forward and reach Your hands are down between your legs as you bend toward the floor or, if you can, down and toward the back of the chair. You should feel this stretch — which is good for anyone who spends a lot of time hunched over the computer — in your lower back and shoulders. Get up slowly to avoid dizziness. Repeat about four times.
Build the strength needed for daily activities
Seated knee extensions Focus on the muscles needed to walk, climb stairs, sit and stand, says Mooney. Start by sitting on a chair with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Slowly raise your foot and straighten your knee while engaging your thigh muscles. Hold for a few seconds, then slowly lower your foot back to the starting position. Switch sides and repeat several times.
Extreme fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of prolonged COVID. Pushing yourself slowly to build endurance—perhaps by walking a bit or doing other physical activity for a little longer each day—works for some people with prolonged COVID. However, others experience “post-exercise malaise” (also known as exercise intolerance), which means that exercise makes them feel more drained rather than energized. Sometimes the effect isn’t evident for several hours or even days after your workout, but keeping a diary or log can help you sort it out, Bauer says.
If you have an exercise intolerance, it is best to practice energy conservation. In short, it entails modifying what you do throughout the day to save energy when possible. “Find ways to save energy on your ‘what do you need to do’ so you have more energy for your ‘what do you want to do,’” Bauer says. For example, try sitting on a chair in the kitchen while you cook or using a robot vacuum (eg Roomba) to clean the floor, and you may find that you have a little extra energy to stay up late and chat with your family after dinner.
“It’s important to listen to your body,” says Mooney. If any of the above strategies make you feel worse, stop and tell your healthcare provider.
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