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  • Dr. Mitchell Janes, PT

Recovered from COVID-19 but still not feeling yourself? Here is why physical therapy may help.

Covid-19 is a widespread multisystem threat on the lungs, heart, kidneys, and brain function that is uniquely aggressive and individualized in its impact for each individual. Covid-19 for any of the aforementioned reasons has been linked to increased trips to the intensive care unit. Between Covid-19 and the intensive care unit, patients are more susceptible to a plethora of acute complications such as pneumonia, sleep disturbances further weakening the immune system, acute respiratory distress syndrome, ventilation dependency, blood clots, myocarditis (inflammation of the heart), and post intensive care syndrome. These symptoms may interfere with the normal gas exchange within the lungs disrupting normal oxygen transportation into the blood and or significantly reduce the amount of blood that is pumped from the heart.

Even after the “recovery” from Covid-19 with a negative test result and or discharge from the intensive care unit, we have recognized that there are long lasting consequences of the virus on the body. These consequences include but are not limited to:

Excessive fatigue, difficulty concentrating, dizziness or lightheadedness, heart palpitations, chest pain, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, oxygen dependency, cane or walker dependency, joint or muscle pain, frozen shoulder, and respiratory symptoms related to lung injury or from ongoing inflammation in the heart.

What we know about Physical Therapy and COVID-19

In the hospital setting physical therapists have been shown to be more than just a safe and effective treatment method. Due to limitations in staffing, the majority of the Covid-19 patients who received physical therapy services in the hospital were found to be older patients with more comorbidities than those who did not receive physical therapy in their care. From afar, the recovery odds clearly favor the younger patients with a significantly less involved medical history and higher functions with Covid-19 not receiving physical therapy. Yet, the evidence shows us that physical therapy reduces mortality rates dramatically and improves quality of life in older individuals with complex patient health history even when compared to the patients with a superior or cleaner bill of health not receiving PT.

In order to further highlight our abilities to tackle COVID-19 long term side effects as well as effects of long term intensive care unit stays, the diagram below highlights our examination processes here at Fitness Forum:

Prior to Covid-19, many patients may have been walking without a cane or walker, but are now dependent on it due to weakness, losses of balance or limited endurance while ambulating in the community. Our goal from the beginning is to not only maximize a patient’s functional abilities but to restore their function back to where it was prior.

We additionally utilize functional tests for fall risk, balance, standardized strength measurements based upon age and gender as well as endurance testing in conjunction with vitals. As therapists we utilize these measurements as a baseline in order to prescribe an independently adapted and gradual workload that is safe and beneficial for the patient. In addition, we also monitor blood pressure, blood oxygen saturation, heart rate and respiratory rate in order to perform a continuous dynamic assessment on each individual. Another vital sign we measure is walking speed (gait speed). Gait speed has widely been considered the 6th vital sign due to its strong association with mortality and will serve as another clinical tool that will be utilized during the assessment.

If you are still struggling from the effects of COVID-19, give us a call at any of our offices in Camden, Rome, Barneveld, New Hartford, or Manlius. We would be happy to help.

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