Covid 19 – it is all in the name!
It is now 2023.
It has been around for waaaaay too long!
And for a subset of people who develop Covid they experience symptoms for way too long after as well.
Most people now have had at least one Covid infection, others another 1-2 times more including many of our clients.
For some they bounce back after a week or 2 of rest but there is a small percentage in line with the general population where the symptoms have lingered, meaning getting back to normal life has not eventuated or that it has taken a long time to do this.
Long Covid has not been linked to the severity of the original infection as many who continue to suffer symptoms report only mild symptoms initially.
Long Covid as it is now called has been recognised by World Health Organisation (WHO) and is under significant investigation by multi-disciplinary teams the world over.
In Australia some of our best and brightest Physiotherapists are leading the research particularly in the areas of pulmonary rehabilitation, to improve your breathing efficiency along with neurological rehabilitation looking into how our autonomic nervous system has been affected like how we regulate blood pressure when getting up from sitting or lying for example.
The key with many post-viral conditions like Ross River Fever, Glandular Fever or symptoms present after long stays in intensive care settings, is that the symptoms are variable, specific to each person, affect multiple systems in our bodies and therefore require a multi-disciplinary approach.
GPs are now equipped with questionnaires that help to assess your eligibility for specific Long Covid Clinics so your best point of contact is with them. Importantly, they will also look at any other reasons for your symptoms.
Physiotherapy and Long COVID
Your local physiotherapist is also well equipped to help you manage your symptoms on your road out of Long Covid.
Two major symptoms are breathlessness and fatigue along with reduced exercise tolerance.
Other symptoms include headache, sleep issues, heart palpitations and changes to mood and concentration levels to name a few.
Using breathing techniques to help regulate the autonomic system and improve efficiency of breathing, physiotherapists have been achieving great outcomes with their clients.
Also teaching clients about pacing of activities and how these techniques can help take the negative feedback thoughts out such as with lack of motivation etc to exercise and develop a plan to gradually pace clients back up and out of where they have been.
Physiotherapy and Long COVID
In our sessions with clients and RedoHealth, we routinely assess and intervene where necessary to help with the breathing efficiency of our clients as it relates to many systems in our bodies including how our core works but also how we regulate stress and our exercise tolerance.
Carbon dioxide (C02) is something we talk about a lot as it is a major regulator of how much we breathe.
Some people can overbreathe especially after chest and sinus infections or with a flare up of asthma symptoms.
There are simple tests that can help us assess where your function is at, that you can easily repeat at home.
By assessing whether you overbreathe we have an indirect measure of how much carbon dioxide you are breathing out.
CO2 has long been thought of as a waste gas but in fact it is a potent smooth muscle relaxant in our body along with being used to regulate our acid/base balance in our body (super important – too acidic = we die, too alkaline = we die!).
Anyway, getting back to our smooth muscles. They are in our blood vessels, our bowel and our bladder to name a few organs.
Let’s take our blood vessels. If the smooth muscles around them are relaxed they open more (dilate) reducing our blood pressure and increasing oxygenation to our tissues including our brains (brain fog anyone?).
This is huge and can all be achieved through simple breathing techniques.
The Good News
The good news with Long Covid is that symptoms do improve, and people are able to get back to their lives gradually.
In fact, the President of the APA (Australian Physiotherapy Association) Scott Willis developed Long Covid and recently shared his story.
As Scott explains, he is back exercising at his normal capacity but he listens to his body much more than before.
For example, if his body is fatigued, he doesn’t push through.
He might plan to swim 2 kms but he gets out of the pool before the fatigue builds.
If he doesn’t, he goes backwards 2-3 days.
It is a good lesson for us all to be in touch with our bodies and not just in our heads demanding our “machines”/bodies do this without actually listening to what is going on with our bodies.