Long Covid Rehabilitation




 Long COVID Rehabilitation

-Marelize Maritz

Covid-19 has been with us for over a year, and will be a part of lives for a long time to come. The impact that Covid-19 has on people experiencing ongoing symptoms beyond their acute infection is drawing increasing attention. A growing number of people continue to feel unwell quite some time after being infected with the SARs-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.

World physiotherapy day poster

Covid-19 is divided into 3 phases:

  • Acute Covid-19 : The first 4 weeks following initial infection. Most people recovery fully in this phase.
  • Ongoing symptomatic Covid-19 : Symptoms persisting 4 – 12 weeks after initial infection. This may include current symptoms or new Covid-related symptoms.
  • Post-Covid syndrome : Symptoms that continue for more than 12 weeks after initial infection that are not explained by an alternative diagnosis.

Worldwide, scientists, pathologists, and healthcare professionals are continually gathering information about Covid-19. Together, our shared research and clinical experience provides the best evidence and knowledge to the global community. This ongoing research aims to keep up with the rate at which this powerful virus is changing, adapting and mutating, while providing the best proven ways to manage and treat the illness that it causes.

At Just Physio, our clinical practice is based on the best recent evidence. This enables us to treat each patient as effectively as we possibly can. We carefully tailor each treatment program to our patient’s personal needs.

We recently experienced the “third wave” of the virus caused by its delta variant and, once again, realised that Covid is not to be taken lightly.  Many people are still recovering, and possibly still experiencing side effects from its first outbreak.

World physiotherapy day poster

Physiotherapists have become vital in the management of this deadly virus, and we will continue to play a pivotal role in the recovery process of individuals who suffered from the virus. More than 90% of people who had Covid still experience longstanding symptoms 3 months (and longer) after the initial infection. Over 200 different symptoms of what we call “Long-Covid” have been identified and documented, ranging from heart-related symptoms, to lung, nervous system, gut, eye and ear, and even psychological symptoms.

Covid-19 is a fairly new illness.

Healthcare providers are still trying to understand the long-term effects of the illness.  “Long Covid” encompasses the persistence of symptoms after the acute phase of Covid illness that is episodic and multidimensional. “Long Covid” can involve multiple organ systems. Symptoms may vary, overlap, and fluctuate in predictable and unpredictable patterns of flare-ups and remissions. Inflammation may contribute to the underlying causes of persistent symptoms.

Not everyone will experience severe symptoms, if at all. However, those with severe illness need appropriate treatment, both in the acute stage, as well as during their recovery. We have seen that recovery may take weeks, even months. For those who do not experience severe illness, it is still vital to be aware of the long-term and potentially silent effects of Covid. “Long Covid” may affect individuals who were hospitalised during their acute illness, as well those who did not require hospitalisation. In other words, the likelihood of someone developing Long-Covid is not necessarily related to the severity of their acute illness.

Common ongoing symptoms of Long Covid includes but is not limited to:

  • Reduced exercise tolerance
  • Brain fog (problems with memory and concentration)
  • Ongoing fatigue with minimal exertion
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Autonomic dysfunction
  • Blood-clots
  • Heart palpitations
  • Chest pain
  • Persistent body pain
  • Diarrhoea & nausea
  • Anxiety, depression and frustration
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Tinnitus / ear ache
  • Changes to sense of smell and taste

It is obvious that Covid has a severe and longstanding effect, not only on the individual, but also on the community as a whole. Many people have had to take time off work as a result of longstanding symptoms and prolonged time to recovery, often without any organic evidence to substantiate these symptoms, which may add to the anxiety, uncertainty and frustration that person may feel. Many people struggling with Long Covid may appear “physically fine” but still experience some of the significant effects thereof.

How to manage Long Covid symptoms:

Living in a fast-paced world, we often find ourselves striving for deadlines and productivity. However, one very important lesson we can learn from Covid-19, is that REST is VITAL. Proper rest is when your body has the opportunity to recover, to heal, and to reset. Prioritise rest and sleep, during and after your acute illness. Your physiotherapist can assist you in finding the balance between proper rest and activity, teaching you about Prioritizing, Planning, Pacing and Positioning (The 4 P’s).

Take cation when returning to daily activities and exercise post-Covid. Fatigue and Post-exertional Symptom Exacerbation (PESE) are very common presentations following Covid-19 infection. We encourage our patients to avoid over-exertion during their recovery phase. This can result in relapse, delay in recovery, and even “crashing” a few days after. Physiotherapists are experts on rehabilitation and exercise prescription. We can guide you in your rehabilitation journey to ensure you achieve optimal recovery.

Do you struggle with acute or longstanding COVID symptoms?

Book at Just Physio!

Contact us for a 10 min no-obligation telephonic consultation to discuss it with an experienced physiotherapist.

Long COVID questionnaire

Alternatively, complete one of the following questionnaires to determine if you may benefit from treatment: