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For a significant number of people, COVID-19 leads to both medium as well as long term effects that can have a significant impact on overall quality of life. Some symptoms may linger or recur for days, weeks or months following initial recovery while some patients develop medical complications that may have lasting lifetime health effects. Recovery time is different for everyone.
While short term effect include fatigue, cough, cold, congestion, shortness of breath, loss of taste/smell, headache, body ache, nausea, chest pain, abdominal pain confusion, prolonged and persistent symptoms due to disruption in body systems and affected organs is also something that recovered patients have faced over time. Long term impact including damage to heart muscle, heart failure, lung tissue damage, restrictive lung failure, anosmia, pulmonary embolism, stroke, cognitive impairment, anxiety, depression, PTSD, sleep disturbances, muscle/joint pain, chronic fatigue, breathlessness, chest pain can severely impact a patient's future if not treated properly.
Often, such COVID-19 patients need a level of medical care and rehabilitation that is difficult to achieve at home. Some of them need continuous monitoring and non-invasive clinical intervention supervised by a medical expert even after they have recovered. This is possible with a comprehensive and planned post -COVID-19 rehabilitative program.
Often a patient may need to get admitted for his or her rehabilitation. On admission, a detailed assessment to map out the therapy sessions and fine-tune a goal-oriented treatment plan depending on the condition of the patient is required. This is where doctors, physiotherapists, occupational and respiratory therapists come in. These professionals will need to assess the progress of the patient on a weekly basis using methods like the Borg Dyspnea Scale, a six-minute walk test, a 12-minute walk test, TUG scale and the Cough Sputum Score.
Physiotherapy is also important in the path to recovery for a COVID-19 patient. A patient needs to perform diaphragmatic breathing exercises to encourage oxygen exchange, slow down the heartbeats and, stabilize the blood pressure. Thoracic expansion exercises will also help loosen secretions from the lungs and thoracic mobilization exercises will clear the secretions from the lungs. There are many exercises to ease breathlessness. A trained physiotherapist with the proper knowledge can quickly start the patient on the path to recovery. Once the patient is comfortable with these exercises, there is the need to focus on strength and endurance training to improve exercise tolerance. Dumbbells and Thera bands, activities on the stepper, staircase training, hurdle training and bicycle ergometer will help patients at this stage.
Occupational therapy teaches patients how to conserve their energy and avoid fatigue through certain adaptive postures while performing daily activities. This is specific to each patient. For instance, adequate breaks while taking the stairs, tying a shoelace in a sitting position rather than bending, to name a few.
Respiratory therapy can play a major role in lung secretion clearance. Resistance training with the help of power breaths, incentive spirometry, respiratory muscle training are among the few exercises that help the patient recover and restore their respiratory health in the most optimal manner, which is so necessary for speedy recovery and early return to normal life at home after discharge from the hospital.
(This article is authored by Mr. Rajinish Menon, Founder & CEO, Sukino Healthcare)
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