By Hannah E. Whitcombe
Osteopath and Nutritional therapist
Recovering from COVID may be a quick and easy process for some, and we now have plenty of cases where individuals have tested positive and have had very little to no symptoms at all, making a swift and uncomplicated recovery. However, this is simply not the case for some, with an increasing number of individuals struggling to recover from the virus, giving rise to the newly termed diagnosis of long COVID.
During an active infection with COVID-19, the patient may have suffered with;
- High temperature
- Cough Difficultly breathing
- Altered or loss of smell and taste
- Muscle pain
- Joint Pain
- Loss of appetite
- production of mucous
- Chest tightness
- Sore throat
Long or Chronic COVID-19 Symptoms include:
- Low grade fever
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Cognitive issues such as lack of concentration and poor memory
- Muscle pains and weakness
- Stomach upset
- Depression and other mental health conditions
- Skin rashes
- Lesions on the skin or toe (COVID Toe)
Fatigue and a general malaise following illness has been seen in other conditions and has been referred to as post-viral fatigue. Due to our limited long-term data, a lot of our current knowledge and approach to long COVID comes from this similar (but not entirely matching) presentation.
What can be done about it, and can Osteopathy help?
Best practice for managing long COVID is still emerging from the ever-changing data. One of the first things to look at would be breathing dynamics (basically the way in which we breathe), and osteopathy can certainly help with this.
We may look at the muscles that help you to breath, assess and treat the diaphragm (the large muscle under the rib cage) and look at rib function itself. Further, often when a cough has lasted for a significant period of time, aches and pains will start to present throughout the body, further contributing to a sense of fatigue.
Headaches may be present for several reasons. Firstly, the pull of the tightened and over-used muscles (presenting due to a persistent cough), can affect your neck and cause something that we call a cervicogenic headache (quite literally meaning, a headache that comes from the neck). Osteopaths will certainly be able to help you with this and confirm whether the headache is arising from the neck or something else. Other causes of the headache may include, dehydration, poor breathing dynamics, poor posture, insufficient nutrition, undiagnosed migraine or a direct bump on the head.
Returning to exercise and usual activity will be significantly challenging for a sufferer of long COVID, and it is absolutely essential to take it one step at a time. Over-exertion is more likely to set you back than help in your journey of recovery. Working with a professional can help you determine your limits and ensure that you continue to monitor what you can and cannot do.
The immune system following COVID-19 will have been working hard to get you back on track and help your body get rid of the virus.. One of the ways that your body does this is via the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is a network of vessels containing fluid that literally helps to detect and destroy pathogens (disease causing agents) and bacteria throughout the body. In addition, due to the lack of movement, this system will not be working at its best and may have become sluggish. Osteopaths use a range of techniques to help improve lymphatic drainage, which will in turn support your immune system.
Finally, one of the most important aspects of recovery from any illness, disease or injury is nutrition, and as well as ensuring a generally balanced and nourishing diet, there are several nutrients that your body will need in even higher quantities at this time. As nutritional needs may vary from patient to patient, it is best to speak to a health professional about your specific requirements, however, in general the following nutrients will help the majority of individuals in their recovery;
- B Complex vitamins (required for the production of energy)
- CO-Q 10
- Zinc and Vitamin C (essential for a healthy immune system)
- Probiotics (essential for gut health and immunity)
- Vitamin D
Please talk to a health professional before choosing to take nutritional supplements, however, if in doubt, try to learn about foods that contain these nutrients in high amounts.
Osteopaths can certainly not cure Long COVID and we are still very much waiting for more data about the best ways to support a patient who is suffering these long-term effects. However, there is good evidence to suggest that we can help you to manage or in some case eradicate the associated symptoms.