The toll Long COVID can have is still being researched, its symptoms have much in common with a number of neurological conditions. Here, specialists from Neuro Physio Wales share their thoughts on why early intervention could be crucial.
Early intervention with symptoms of Long COVID can be vital in mitigating long-term effects, specialist neurophysiotherapists have said.
While the effects of Long COVID are still being realised, with the condition only recently being recognised as a lasting impact of COVID-19, accepted symptoms include fatigue, brain fog, joint or muscle pain, dizziness, depression or anxiety and pins and needles.
Such symptoms are very commonly associated with many neurological conditions, such as multiple sclerosis (MS), and while they will be new to the thousands of people experiencing Long COVID, they can be amplified for those who have lived with them through pre-existing conditions.
For neurophysiotherapists, they are symptoms that are regularly dealt with through their work with neuro patients, and by tackling them at the earliest point, that could help alleviate further problems down the line.
And while many people are shielding or self-isolating and may not wish to seek in-person support, the access to virtual resources including telerehab is proving popular among many who are living with Long COVID.
“We’re well used to treating all of these symptoms but as part of different conditions, they go hand in hand with so many other things we help people with, so I think neurophysiotherapists are well equipped to support people with Long COVID,” says Sara Davis, clinical director at Neuro Physio Wales.
“For many people who have had COVID and have been really poorly with it, they will have lost strength and muscle mass, and may have to work on their general strength and balance as they recover. This is a condition which we continue to learn more about all the time, so there is no set formula in what to do.
“But getting the support they need is really so important because – as with neurophysio in general – many people are losing out on their best chance of recovery through a lack of access to the physio services they need, or else not recognising they need it, so we would urge anyone struggling with symptoms of Long COVID to seek some support.”
While several clients continue to attend Neuro Physio Wales’s base near Bridgend in person, others have opted to stay at home and seek support using telerehab – but reaching out when needed is the main thing, says Helena Cook, a specialist neurological physiotherapist.
“We are still getting new calls and referrals, such as from people who have had a stroke and have just been discharged from hospital, but we have quite a few clients who are happy without in-person appointments and to have us just monitoring their progress,” says Helena.
“I think people are thinking twice about coming out, particularly with much being said about this current lockdown potentially lasting until Easter, but we’re happy to work with our clients based on the decisions they’ve made.
“In ordinary circumstances, more people would come to us when they leave hospital, but they’re definitely more hesitant now. We understand that and can support them from afar, using video or telephone call, if that’s what they prefer.
“I have one client who I haven’t seen for a year now, but I do hear from his wife, who gives us a call to ask advice. It’s nice that people know we’re here for them in whatever form they need us.”
Having opted to close completely in the early stages of the pandemic last year, Neuro Physio Wales is again operating both clinic and home visits, but with some changes to its usual way of operation in the centre.
“We closed down until the point we could be absolutely confident in our clients’ safety in coming in to the centre, and we now welcome them back knowing we are operating in a very safe environment. I don’t think it could be any cleaner and we have very stringent protocols in place, although we have had to change our working practices so that we have up to 30 minutes between appointments to ensure proper cleaning,” says Sara.
“We’re really pleased that many of our clients are coming back into the clinic, but we know they miss the social contact,” adds Helena.
“We used to have a ‘Friday morning club’ where we would have two therapists in, some clients would come at the same time, the next person would come a bit early for a chat, and it was a lovely environment.
“We have lost that for now, but we appreciate that for many of our clients this is a vital social opportunity, often the only one they will have, so as soon as it is safe and possible for us to bring that back, we will do so.”
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