In early September (2020), the United States surpassed 6 million[i] cases of COVID-19 reported to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Since March, the U.S. has witnessed the diagnosis exponentially increase around the country, some diagnosis resulting in death (approximately 200,000 nationwide[ii]), yet the vast majority of those diagnosed (nearly 97%) recover. Within the population of those who recover the effects of the virus on their body ranges from asymptomatic to a wide variety of lingering ailments. The American Association for the Advancement of Science, in their ‘Science’ journal report “Ongoing problems include fatigue, a racing heartbeat, shortness of breath, achy joints, foggy thinking, a persistent loss of sense of smell, and damage to the heart, lungs, kidneys, and brain.[iii]
So, what’s next for those who return to work? In this INSIGHT article, we partner with Physical Therapist Nicole McManus, MSPT, OMT, FAAOMPT of Professional Physical Therapy (ProPT), a provider of outpatient therapy services with a passion and dedicated program for injured workers to examine the impact of reconditioning after being diagnosed with COVID. ProPT recently added a Post-COVID Reconditioning Program to their service line which is focused on systematically preparing the worker to tolerate the demands of their job.
Post-COVID effects include limited cardiovascular endurance, muscle weakness, low VO2 max (respiratory capacity) and in some cases, cognitive processing deficits and depression as a result of post-intensive care syndrome (PICS). If a worker needs to be able to perform physically demanding tasks over the course of a normal work day, there is a strong possibility that without reconditioning, the worker will fail to meet the job requirements and may need to remain on restrictions.
Professional Physical Therapy uses a validated pulmonary conditioning protocol to address the adverse effects of COVID-19. The worker is evaluated by a licensed physical therapist who not only assesses the impairments and functional deficits present but takes specific measurements regarding their pulmonary and cardiovascular function. These key measurements are reassessed regularly to monitor progress and to compare their current abilities to the job requirements. The benefit of a specific reconditioning program for the affected worker is that they can also see and feel their progress. Injured workers who participate in this program have less anxiety or reservation when it is time to return to work as reconditioning allows them to practice their job tasks while consistently increasing their cardio-pulmonary endurance and capacity.
[i] CDC COVID Data Tracker, retrieved from https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/?utm_source=morning_brew#cases
[ii] COVID in the U.S.: Latest Map and Case Count, retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html
[iii] From ‘brain fog’ to heart damage, COVID-19’s lingering problems alarm scientists, retrieved from https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/07/brain-fog-heart-damage-covid-19-s-lingering-problems-alarm-scientists