The year 2019 hit many people hard with the COVID-19 virus. Many people treated it much like the common cold, while some people tragically lost their lives. Those might be the two extremes, but thousands of other people fall somewhere in the middle. They caught the COVID-19 virus but are not able to shake it off as quickly as others. These people have lingering symptoms that affect their daily lives. If you are one of those people, keep reading to get some tips from Alex Klurfeld on how physical therapy can help alleviate your symptoms and help you feel better all the way around.
One study showed that a woman who had contracted the COVID-19 virus and suffered some long-term effects found that exercise over about a month drastically reduced her symptoms and improved her overall health.
Make sure you spend some time each day exercising. It may feel a little uncomfortable at first, but exercising helps increase the amount of oxygen in the blood. One of the issues with COVID-19 is that many people experience breathing problems. When one does not get enough oxygen in the bloodstream, they feel tired and weak. Even just walking around the house for brief exercise several times throughout the day will be helpful. If coughing occurs after exertion, don’t panic. Some coughing is good. It helps to bring up any mucous that might still be in the lungs. Getting rid of that mucous will help improve lung function overall and will help raise the amount of oxygen in the blood.
It is essential to start slow. Walk for five to ten minutes at first and gradually increase the time each day or two. Even if just for a short period, some exercise is better than doing nothing at all.
It might sound funny to practice breathing techniques when breathing is something that should come naturally to us. Many patients who have experienced COVID-19 also experience prolonged issues with their breathing. Maybe you feel as if you get out of breath too quickly or can’t take a deep enough breath to do much good. You might also feel a little bit heavy in the chest area. That’s because your diaphragm and chest muscles are working harder than usual to get your body the oxygen it needs. Even doing simple chores around the house might make you feel more tired and breathless than it used to.
One of the ways you can help in this area is to do those chores that need doing, but allow yourself a little more time to do them. Take a break and sit down if you feel you need to catch your breath.
Another way is to belly breathe. Belly breathing helps you to slow down rapid breaths and allow your body to rest and catch up. To belly breathe, sit down in a comfortable seat and place your hands on your stomach. Then, close your mouth and take a deep breath through your nose. Use your hands on your belly to ensure that you are filling your lungs with air. You should feel your stomach blowing up as you would when you fill a balloon with air. Release the breath through pursed lips, just like you would when filling that balloon. Continue to breathe like this for about five minutes until you feel relaxed and better able to breathe.
If you continue to have breathing issues that you can’t settle or cannot catch your breath, you should call 911.
Many people suffering from extended COVID-19 issues get frustrated because they are used to being busy. If this is you, one of the ways you can help yourself is simply by rationing out your physical activity. Weekends are busy times for many families who want to be outside hiking, swimming, playing games, or any other number of activities. Those activities can be stressful on your body and cause you to miss out on fun things. A key factor is to remember that you don’t have to do everything all in one day. If you plan a hike with the family, plan a shorter hike than you might typically take. Also, allow stops throughout the hike to allow you to catch your breath and give weak muscles a rest. You may want to add a quiet picnic after your hike instead of swimming in the lake.
It would be best if you alternated strenuous activities with less strenuous ones. If you feel your body getting overwhelmed, tired, and short of breath, try to find a spot where you can lay down flat on your stomach. Lying on your stomach helps you to breathe easier and helps to expand the function of the lungs.
Don’t feel like you have to do everything every day. Don’t be afraid to ask others to help you, especially with those tasks that sap the energy right out of you.
Alex Klurfeld also suggests some relaxation techniques to help alleviate the symptoms of COVID-19. Sometimes, one feels that they can’t breathe or catch their breath, which can be scary, especially for anyone who lives alone. Doing relaxation techniques helps to calm the body, bringing back a feeling of control. These relaxation techniques include especially the neck and shoulders. This is an area of the body where many people carry stress. Relieving that stress will help open up the lungs and make breathing easier and more productive.
Sit in a chair that forces you to have good posture. Roll your head around from side to side to help stretch and relieve the muscles in your neck. Roll your shoulders around in circles as well. You can even stretch your arms out to the sides and make a small circular motion to help release stress in the shoulder muscles and open up the chest area.
While you are doing these head and neck exercises, make sure you continue to breathe. Don’t hold your breath. Take deep, cleansing breaths through your nose, and slowly let them out through pursed lips, much like you do with belly breathing.
Getting a massage can also help reduce some of the tension you feel in your neck and shoulders. A loved one can do this at home, or you can find a local masseuse. A masseuse will often have you lay on your stomach to perform the massage, which is also good to help with your breathing techniques.
If you struggle throughout the day with your breathing, try mixing up your breathing positions. We have discussed belly breathing and laying on your stomach; you can also sit in a chair and lean forward so that your hand or elbows rest on your knees. Take several slow, deep breaths through the nose and release them through the mouth while sitting in this position.
Leaning back in a chair can also be a helpful breathing technique—lean backward with your arms at your sides or resting on the chair's arms. Again, take in slow, deep, cleansing breaths through the nose and release them through the mouth in several repetitions.
There are some things to watch out for when recovering from COVID-19. You will want to contact a doctor if you continue to have a fever, have an irregular heartbeat, chest pain, shortness of breath for an extended period, or experience dizziness if you haven’t been overdoing it on the exercise and activity.
Recovering from COVID-19 doesn’t happen overnight for many who experienced the virus, but slow and steady wins that race. Take each day as it comes. Plan activities that get your heart rate up a little bit - alternate stressful activities with non-stressful ones. By combining many of the above-mentioned physical therapy techniques, you can help your body recover from COVID-19. Keep at it, and eventually, you will feel normal once again.