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Rehabilitation Therapies Can Help COVID-19 Long-Haulers

Authors:
  • author name J.T. Garner, PT, DPT
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All of us have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some people have been fortunate enough not to contract the coronavirus and with vaccination increasing, these numbers should grow. Others recovered relatively quickly after infection with no lasting effects. Another group, known as COVID-19 long-haulers, have not been so lucky.

As more research is coming out about the virus’ long-term effects, we now know that COVID-19 can create a variety of different symptoms and ailments. Rehabilitation therapies can help long-haulers deal with some of these conditions and return to more normal health. 

Varying COVID-19 Symptoms

Some individuals experience only had mild symptoms of the coronavirus, such as losing their sense of smell or taste. But some people have had a serious immune response, creating significant functional and psychological deficits. Fortunately, there are treatment options for those who continue to have symptoms long after the initial infection, including:

  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Pain
  • Difficulty performing usual activities
  • Emotional issues
  • Cognitive difficulties
  • Psychological issues: PTSD, insomnia, anxiety, depression

COVID-19 Recovery Program 

Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health has established a COVID-19 recovery and rehabilitation program designed to evaluate and treat lasting issue caused by the coronavirus. The program includes these disciplines:

  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Neuropsychology

Physical Therapy for Heart, Weakness and Balance Issues

Physical therapists are able to provide care for those with compromised cardiopulmonary systems affecting endurance, as well as general weakness and balance deficits. Recent research finds that performing a simple breathing program can assist in oxygen levels and improve excessive fatigue common in those recovering from COVID-19. 

Occupational Therapy for Help with Daily Living and Cognitive Recovery

Occupational therapists help individuals return to their prior level of function by assisting in performing activities of daily living. They also assist with cognitive training, as those recovering from COVID-19 can have mental confusion or difficulty with memory. Occupational therapy can help train the brain to address confusion and memory issues.

Speech Therapy for Speaking and Swallowing Help

Speech therapists address issues with speaking or swallowing that often develop with persistent cough or in severe cases, intubation (being on a ventilator).

Neuropsychology for Depression and Anxiety

People with severe deficits created by the virus can struggle with depression or anxiety. A neuropsychologist can help address the psychological impairments that can occur with significant functional decline—similar to or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

If you or anyone you know are having a difficult time recovering from COVID 19, contact your primary care physician first. Your provider will help you receive the care required to address any physical or psychology needs, which could include the therapies described above.

How to Access Care

If you or anyone you know is having a difficult time recovering from COVID-19, contact your primary care physician first about COVID-19 rehabilitation treatments. Your provider will help you receive the care required to address any health concerns you have.


author name

J.T. Garner, PT, DPT

J.T. Garner, PT, DPT, is a physical therapist based at the Lancaster General Health Willow Lakes outpatient location. Dr. Garner is a member of the spine and COVID-19 rehabilitation teams. He is a graduate of Lock Haven University and received his doctorate in physical therapy from Alvernia University.

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