Can Physical Therapy Help After an ICU visit from COVID-19?

Can Physical Therapy Help After an ICU visit from COVID-19?

Article review of “How physical therapists can aid COVID-19 patients’ recovery after ICU”.

We are all living in very uncertain times with the COVID-19 outbreak. Most people understand the initial signs and symptoms of COVID-19, and many know that with severe cases people may end up on ventilators in the ICU. What is more unknown is what happens when people recover and leave the hospital. A large part of this involves therapy services.

An important concept to understand is a syndrome called post intensive care syndrome, or “PICS”. PICS is a myriad of symptoms that people may experience after being in the ICU. A fact sheet from the American Thoracic Society reports that these problems include physical function, cognition, and mental health. It is estimated that approximately 15% of COVID-19 patients will be hospitalized, many of whom will be treated in the ICU. 85% of patients return home from the ICU, but with lingering ailments due to PICS. This is where physical therapists can play an important role in helping patients return to their prior level of function.

Although this article is more focused on recovery of PICS and not specifically to COVID-19, it is easily relatable to COVID-19 patients, especially if they were treated in the ICU. Physical symptoms of PICS include muscle weakness, difficulty with walking, balance deficits, and problems with daily activities such as dressing, bathing, and managing finances. People may be presented with challenges returning to work or driving. These limitations can contribute to mental health concerns as well, such as anxiety, depression, or sleep disturbances.

Physical therapy can do several things to address these functions. Due to being bed ridden in the ICU, muscles can atrophy. Physical therapists can specifically find which muscles are weak and give appropriate exercises to address this dysfunction. Walking and coordination may be poor after not standing so often during the day. Balance and coordination exercises can be prescribed to help reduce fall risk. Respiratory issues are certainly a concern with COVID-19; physical therapists can work on proper breathing patterns and improving endurance for day to day activities.

If you have been affected by COVID-19, or have any concerns, we do offer free consultations here at HOPE Physical Therapy and Wellness. Please give us a call at (719) 466-6800 to see what we can do for you!

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