This blog from our Head Physio Sophie offers some practical advice on recovering from Covid-19...
Our lives have dramatically changed since January 2020 and whilst I appreciate there are many personal accounts of ‘living with Covid’ and ‘life after Covid’, I also wanted to help with some practical advice about rehabilitation as part of the recovery process after Covid-19.
Recovery from any incident be it trauma, surgery or a virus that has taken over your body is difficult for most people. One of the hardest things it seems has been the wide-ranging effects Covid-19 has had on so many people, whether they were previously fit and well, or living an unhealthier lifestyle.
For the purposes of this blog, we are referencing the physical difficulties but that is not to forget the emotional toll recovering from Covid-19 can be, and indeed the impact of losing loved ones to it.
The NHS suggests patients may need to wait for six months for symptoms of pain, lung dysfunction, fatigue and mental trauma to reduce post Covid-19. For patients who have been ventilated and been cared for on intensive care wards, six months may just be scratching the surface of a full recovery. Sadly, there are some of us that will have chronic conditions because of the virus and require more longer-term support for health.
Practical Tips for Recovery
Pacing is something I used to teach whilst completing neurorehabilitation (after patients suffered from strokes or brain tumours) and it is exactly as it says on the tin. Quite simply put; pace everything you do day-by-day and see how you manage. Slowly you can extend simple tasks like walking, using the stairs and standing to cook a meal. Everyone will differ in how much they can manage but breaking bigger tasks down and resting in between will allow you to rebuild your capacity.
2. Managing breathlessness
When anyone is breathless, it creates an anxious environment of not having control over yourself. This is really challenging when it happens from a simple daily task, and in some severe Covid-19 cases people have reported being breathless whilst having a conversation.
As above, pace your activities, but also take time to change your posture. Encourage deeper abdominal breathing and try and reduce the desire for short rapid breaths. Forward leaning may help open your chest, by leaning your elbows on a table, desk or just your knees. This in turn will help open your airways and feel like you have more control over your breathing.
The benefits of sleep were never really understood until more recently and as with recovering from most things - sleep is vital. It is the chance your body has to repair and reboot. Try and retain a set routine so that you avoid sleeping in and inevitably staying up late. Screen time should be limited before bed to give your body the best chance of winding down.
Every day is different, and every day in recovery is a new day, so what setbacks may occur need to be acknowledged as part of the longer-term plan. As a Physiotherapist, my advice is if, after 6 weeks of recuperation you are still struggling with normal day to day tasks, then get in touch with your GP to discuss rehabilitation support, or directly with a Physiotherapist to see how they can help.