You’ve probably heard the term “Long COVID” which is defined as any symptoms or conditions that linger after a SARS-CoV-2 infection. Long COVID can even include new conditions that develop as a result of that infection, and the symptoms may last weeks, months, or even years.
What you might not know is that Long COVID is common. In 2022, about one in 13 people in the US, or 7.5% of the population, had Long COVID, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
People with Long COVID need ongoing care and treatment, and depending on the symptoms, physical therapists and physical therapist assistants can offer some help.
“Early recognition and effective management of the potentially disabling effects of long COVID can lead to improved outcomes and quality of life,” according to the American Physical Therapy Association. “Physical therapists can help individuals with safe rehabilitation during long COVID recovery and empower them to self-manage lingering chronic symptoms.”
Long COVID is complicated because the virus can affect so many parts of the body, including the heart, lungs, brain, and gastrointestinal system. Long COVID symptoms can include fatigue, heart palpitations, brain fog, shortness of breath, joint and muscle pain, dizziness, changes in smell or taste, and depression and anxiety, to name a few.
People over 40, those with multiple or more severe COVID infections (although it can happen even with mild infections), and people who aren't vaccinated are at higher risk of Long COVID, according to the CDC.
While not everyone is a candidate for physical therapy, physical therapists are often an essential part of the care team for people who develop Long COVID.
So where does physical therapy come in? Research is ongoing to determine what treatment plans offer the most benefit to Long COVID patients.
One case study found that a 37-year-old woman with Long COVID who had physical therapy sessions twice a week for 8 weeks had an improvement in muscle strength, physical function, and exercise capacity.
Physical therapy sessions may be able to improve shortness of breath; decrease anxiety, stress, and depression; and increase lung capacity, according to one 2022 study in the journal Frontiers.
In short, physical therapy and physical therapy assistants can often help many patients with Long COVID. Talk to your doctor about what the right course of treatment might be for you.
We are proud of our work helping patients return to an active lifestyle from falls. However, the best case is to avoid falls altogether, so here are five tips to keep in mind during our icy conditions:
1. Stay Present. For the most part we are highly adaptable creatures and recognize changes in surfaces quickly adjusting our stride patterns automatically without conscious thought. And it’s this great skill that can lead us to a false sense of security on ice. Often our patients’ story go like this: “I don’t know what happened, all of the sudden I found myself on the ground.” It’s a sign that we are all busy and thinking about what we are going to do next. Opportunity for falls and injury arise when our thoughts are far from present and our moves are on auto-pilot. Our tip: Stay Present when moving! Take care for ice you see, as well as, the ice you cannot see… like black ice, as well as, hidden ice.
2. Walk Like a Penguin. Our favorite caution sign in the area advises to change your gait with icy conditions. A slight bend in your back with your feet pointed out to increases your center of gravity. Take small steps and keep flat-footed. This approach may appear like an awkward penguin shuffle but it’s a way to stay stable on ice according to the Center of Disease Control research.
3. Avoid Hills and Stairs. Steep paths combined with uneven surfaces create opportunity for gravity to move you in unintended ways. Consider taking the flatter path to your mailbox in icy conditions and save the steeper shortcut for another day. If you cannot skip the hills or stairs altogether then be sure to use handrails, keep your hands out of your pockets, and move slowly.
4. Be Aware of Weather Conditions. We know that water freezes when the temperature reaches 32°F and conditions are right for ice. However, judging your next outing to be easy based on a temperature above 32°F can be deceiving. Research shows that ice is much slipperier when it's melting. As a result, it important to understand the temperature change and be aware that an icy path you navigated successfully yesterday could be more slippery today as the temperature warms ups.
5. Wear the right shoes. Dr. Philip E. Martin, professor and chair of the Department of Kinesiology at Iowa State University, advises people to,
“Consider a shoe's material properties, noting that a rigid leather sole is far from ideal as it offers a significantly weaker grip compared to a rubber sole. Of course, traction-improving treads, cleats, or spikes can help too."
Recent research by iDAPT, the research arm of the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute—University Health Network, has tested and rated the slip resistance of nearly 100 boots showing that only 10% of commonly found boot brands in Canada rate highly for icy conditions. Brands like Keen, Merrell and Timberland were among the 30 brands and 100 models tested. For test scores visit WinterLab
We hope you liked our icy conditions tips! And as much as we want to see you this winter, we prefer you “like” us on Facebook, walk like a penguin and stay upright on the ice this season.
1. Science-Approved Tips for Walking Across Ice”
2. “Slippery Boots: Most Winter Footwear Fails Test of Walking on Ice” https://www.cbc.ca/news/science/winter-boots-tested-ice-1.3867531