Long Covid and the role of Physiotherapy

In the process of recovery from Covid, Physiotherapy plays a significant role in healing the patient

It is significant that the theme for this year's World Physiotherapy day that was celebrated on the 8th of September is "Rehabilitation and Long Covid". Long Covid means those Covid cases which remain positive for a prolonged period, even up to 3 months.
To know more about how Covid and physiotherapy are associated, our reporter interviewed Mr Shankar Sharma, a reputed physiotherapist from Guwahati.
Fit Northeast: How is physiotherapy related to Covid?
Mr Sharma: When one gets infected with Covid-19, the lungs get infected. This infection minimizes the lung's capacity to secrete out the sputum from within. This in turn creates a breathing difficulty in the person. The volume of the lung decreases and difficulty in respiration is seen.
Fit Northeast: How the problem in the lung could be detected?
Mr Sharma: Some of them might complain of having difficulty in breathing or even if they are fine, we suggest them to go for a CT Scan to get the condition of the lungs checked. One can come to know about the CT value from the CT Scan. The lesser is the CT Value, the more affected is the lung. The CT value indicates the presence of the virus.
Fit Northeast: What is the role of physiotherapy in healing a Covid patient?
Mr Sharma: In the initial stages, we suggest the patients to do some simple breathing exercises to improve their lung capacity. Some of these exercises are given in a lying position, some in a side-lying position and in several other positions depending on the requirement of the patient.
In case of people who suffer from co-morbidity show fluctuations in their oxygen levels and deterioration of health and collapse of the lungs. So it is always suggested to carry on with the breathing exercises.
The initial breathing exercises are to be done by the patient which increases the capacity of the lungs. Then we gradually move to the 'chest physiotherapy' which includes some exercises and massages of the chest area using the hands. This 'chest physiotherapy' helps in activating the secretion process. But there is one important thing which is to be noted in this context, that in some cases, some patients cannot even cough, so we teach them the technique of coughing and excreting out the sputum. Such a practice clears their lungs leading to the better capacity of the lung.
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Image: representative image
Fit Northeast: Is the common man aware of the fact that healing is easy through physiotherapy?
Mr Sharma: In the urban area, most of the people who get admitted to private hospitals know about it because before they get discharged from the hospital, they are taught about it by the doctors. Even the physiotherapist teaches them some exercises. It is always suggested to continue the practice of the exercises depending on the health of the patient. These exercises include breathing exercises, shoulder movements etc.
Fit Northeast: How does shoulder movement help in chest physiotherapy?
Mr Sharma: The shoulder muscles are connected to the muscles of the chest. When one does the shoulder movement, the stickiness (of the sputum) which adheres to the walls of the lungs gets repelled gradually. This helps in clearing the drainage system of the lungs leading to increase the capacity of the lung. In some patients, we suggest they sleep in the prone position (Prone position is a body position in which the person lies flat with the chest down and the back up). This position inflames the lung, leading to a better breathing capacity.
Fit Northeast: Can the patients carry on these exercises on a regular basis after their recovery to increase the strength of the lung?
Mr Sharma: In some cases what happens is that even though one suffers from Covid but have no external symptom, the lung might show severe harm and the CT value is also very less. In case of people who suffer from co-morbidity show fluctuations in their oxygen levels and deterioration of health and collapse of the lungs. So it is always suggested to carry on with the breathing exercises.
Fit Northeast: Any message for our readers?
Mr Sharma: With the medical advancement in urban areas, many people are becoming aware of what physiotherapy is. It is very important to understand that it is not magic that will show an instant result. The treatment should be given dedicatedly by the physiotherapist and the patients should also regularly carry on with the exercises prescribed by the physiotherapist. The more particular the practice of the exercises, the better is the result.

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