The role of physiotherapists in the treatment and management of people affected by ‘Long COVID’ is the theme for World Physiotherapy Day on 8 September.
“Our role as physiotherapists have become even more critical in the COVID-19 care spectrum,” said William Koong, the president of the Fiji Physiotherapists Association.
“Physiotherapy services are an integral pathway of collaborative care in prevention, restoration and rehabilitation pathways,” Mr Koong added.
He said the physiotherapy profession is primarily concerned with ‘movement science’ and aims at maximizing quality of function and ‘movement potential’.
The effects of Long COVID
In explaining Long-COVID, Mr Koong said “Long COVID, also known as post-COVID-19 syndrome, post-acute sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC), chronic COVID syndrome (CCS) and long-haul COVID, is a condition characterized by long-term sequalae —appearing or persisting after the typical convalesce period—of COVID-19.
“Long COVID can affect nearly every organ system with sequelae including respiratory system disorders, nervous system and neurocognitive disorders, mental health disorders, metabolic disorders, cardiovascular disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, malaise, fatigue, musculoskeletal pain, and anaemia.
He said 1 in every 10 people living with Long COVID will exhibit symptoms for a period of 12 weeks or longer.
“Its a multi-system disease with over 200 listed symptoms which occur in variable combinations and can fluctuate in both predictable and unpredictable patterns, Mr Koong explained.
He said signs and symptoms of ‘Long COVID’ usually develop during the infection and continue for over 12 weeks or more after the infection.
Physiotherapy intervention for Long COVID
Physiotherapy can help minimize the negative impact of COVID -19 on health and functionally.
Emma Stokes, World Physiotherapy president, said in a global statement marking the day: “The most common symptoms of Long COVID, after six months, include extreme exhaustion, post-exertional symptom exacerbation, and problems with memory and concentration.
Physiotherapy interventions are tailored toward holistic rehabilitation to address all system impairments and playa crucial role in facilitating functional recovery, resumption to work and social normalcy.
“A physiotherapist can help people living with Long COVID as part of a rehabilitation programme and make sure exercise prescription is approached with care to minimise risk and to ensure exercise programmes are restorative and do not make an individual’s symptoms worse,” Stokes explained.
“Long COVID is different for everyone. A physiotherapist can help people manage their symptoms and work with them to support their recovery.”
Stokes encouraged all post COVID patients experiencing any of these systems to seek physiotherapy help with managing these post covid issues.
Association affirms its members and allied health workers
“On behalf of the Fiji Physiotherapy Association, I would like to thank all our physiotherapist colleagues who are frontliners and also all health care professionals who are currently working to control the COVID Pandemic in Fiji,” Koong said.
Koong commended the vaccination programme coordinated by the Ministry of Health and Medical Services and encouraged every Fijian to get vaccinated.