Surviving Covid-19 is one thing but recovering from it needs a lot of input from your medical team to get you there! Upon hospital discharge for many, physiotherapy care and rehabilitation is key to helping you make a full recovery.
What is Covid-19?
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus. The virus initially attacks the upper respiratory system, the nose and throat, making it very contagious and helping the virus spread. Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness. For those more susceptible, the virus can eventually travel down the body into the lungs and this can cause pneumonia resulting in serious illness, for some hospitalisation and ventilation support.
What are the symptoms of Covid-19?
The main symptoms of coronavirus are:
- a high temperature
- a new, continuous cough
- a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste
However, people with COVID-19 may experience a wide range of symptoms including:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
The symptoms are usually mild, but some people can become very unwell.
What’s the impact of Covid-19?
Apart from lung disease, Covid-19 patients may develop widespread physical and psychological problems. The virus can have a multi-system effect on the body:
Coronavirus can leave patients with lasting physical damage and scarring to their lungs, meaning many could struggle to breathe and move around as well as they did before.
We know that effective treatment in hospital for severe cases is ventilation support for the lungs and chest physiotherapy. Recovering from being bed bound and critically ill is physically demanding. For those who have been on ventilators, many have trouble swallowing and talking. A general rule of thumb to measure the lasting physical damage, is that the sicker you are, the longer you will take to recover physically from the virus.
Once patients are woken up from the induced coma, many are so weak that they cannot even sit unaided, lift their arms, and move their legs. Evidence shows that even just one week of bed rest leads to substantial muscle loss, and many patients suffering from Covid-19 could be bed bound for significant lengths of time, often longer than 10 days.
Hospitalised patients recovering from the virus need intensive rehabilitation to build muscle mass, regain mobility, function and exercise tolerance. We know that even the fittest individuals have had to go through intensive rehab to regain lost muscle and function.
As the virus can cause problems with the lining of the blood vessels, it is thought that the disease can lead to bleeding and inflammation of the brain (encephalitis) and strokes in both the young and old. Patients who are infected with covid-19 are also at risk of delirium, profound exhaustion, drowsiness, and hallucinations. For many, being in a hospital environment for the patient may worsen symptoms of delirium and seeing different doctors and nurses all day in PPE can worsen their delirium.
It is thought that the virus can cause swelling and inflammation of the heart muscle, which can impact the way it’s contracting and circulating blood around the body. Many young and fit people infected by the virus have noticed irregularities in their pulse and blood pressure. This can impact the body’s physical ability to recover, build muscle mass, and regain lost function.
Effect on other organs
Multi-system failure appears to be profound. Hospitals are seeing a broad range of kidney, pancreatic and liver damage after contracting the virus. This may leave the patient weak and vulnerable with a long path of recovery ahead of them.
Recovery & rehabilitation
Rehabilitation must be recognised as an unmissable part of Covid-19 recovery. Once home and recovering, patients’ rehabilitation plays an important role. Seeing the same physiotherapist at home will deliver the consistency and continuity of care for the patient to help get them through and build themselves up to their former self.
Recovering from Covid-19 isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon and physios know how to help patients win that race, by providing rehab that gets them across the ‘recovery line’ and helps them rebuild their lives. High quality rehab is good for patients, good for their families, good for the economy and an absolute necessity for this nation’s recovery (Karen Middleton, CSP).