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Therapies That Can Help Ease Long COVID Breathlessness, Fatigue

0 2 years ago

The studies reflect two different — in some ways, opposite — approaches to dealing with symptoms that tend to plague long COVID patients.

One study taught long COVID patients through a four-week occupational therapy program how to better manage their fatigue, with an emphasis on energy planning, stress management and sleep hygiene.

The other attempted to improve long-haul symptoms through a six-week exercise program aimed at gradually increasing patients’ stamina.

“The main problem is extreme fatigue that is unrelenting,” said Louise Norris, lead researcher of the first study and a senior occupational therapist with St. James’ Hospital in Dublin. “People think they need to rest more in this situation, but actually too much rest is just as bad as too little. Introducing a balanced routine to prevent highs and lows in energy consumption is key.”

At least one in 10 COVID patients suffer from symptoms that linger months past their initial infection, according to tracking estimates from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in Baltimore.

These folks suffer from post-infection lethargy similar to that of patients with Lyme disease or chronic fatigue syndrome, said David Putrino, director of rehabilitation innovation for the Mount Sinai Health System in New York City.

For the studies, two separate research groups at St. James’ Hospital tried to relieve these symptoms by asking patients to take part in weeks-long virtual programs, according to findings presented last week at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases annual meeting in Lisbon, Portugal. Such research is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Norris’ pilot program recruited 53 long COVID patients, nearly all of whom reported moderate to severe fatigue that affected their ability to take part in everyday activities. Nearly three of four said they had breathing difficulties, while half had brain fog.

The participants took part in three 1.5-hour group-based sessions delivered online by an occupational therapist over a four-week period.

Emphasis was placed on helping the participants identify their body and brain’s limits during day-to-day activities, so that they could conserve their energy and take a break before reaching the point of exhaustion.


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