We all know of COVID-19, but how many of us are aware of Long COVID? Long COVID is classified as having had COVID-19 symptoms extending for a period of 12 weeks or more. As we continue to learn more about the impact of the virus itself, there will be continued refinement of the symptoms and definition of Long COVID. The only problem is that we cannot wait that long, so where can we start?
Have we seen this before?
Long COVID, or the long term impact of the COVID-19 virus is presenting a huge challenge to sufferers, and it is something that people living with Chronic Fatigue (CF) or Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) are quite familiar with. While some individuals may have felt the virus flash past, or others run down for a few weeks, there are some who are months down the track and struggling to return to their normal lives. Similar to Chronic Fatigue, Long COVID is leaving people with reduced functional capacity, significantly increased fatigue levels, reduced pulmonary function and at times, cardiac complications.
Symptoms of Long COVID which are similar to CF/ME
Aching joints or muscles
Whole body fatigue and cognitive fatigue such as brain fog
Increases in poor mental health such as depression or anxiety
Reduced capacity for activities of daily living such as cooking, cleaning or showering
Additional symptoms of Long COVID
Shortness of breath
Rapid or fluctuating heart rates
Further long term complications to cardiac, respiratory, renal, and neurological systems
Considering rehabilitation of these symptoms should also heavily consider fatigue such as that present in CF/ME. From an exercise stand point, this can be a controversial topic. While literature previously suggested the delivery of graded exercise therapy was most effective management of CF/ME, there have been a lot of questions into its safety and impact on symptoms. When exercise prescription is approached in a way which considers the individual holistically, and not just through results of fitness and strength testing, it can be extremely helpful to improve mental health, general deconditioning and return to function. As such, the same can be said for an approach to Long COVID.
Where should I start with rehabilitation?
When it all comes down to it, a sufferer of Long COVID should look for a professional starting point in their rehabilitation. Working with a team of Exercise Physiologists and Physiotherapists would provide a safe and educated setting in which a program can be tailored to the specific needs of the individual based on treatment history and current presentation.