Management of COVID -Physiotherapy Advice

Management of COVID -Physiotherapy Advice

It might be that you, a family member or a friend have recently been diagnosed with COVID -19. I would like to pass on some practical advice from my colleagues in South Africa who have been dealing with this for the last 2 years. 

We need to support our immune system to help fight the virus. We can do this best by resting, breathing in a way that provides our body with more oxygen and keeping our bodies hydrated.

One of the best things we can do for our immune system as we recover from a viral infection is sleep. Get at least 10 hours of sleep at night. Rest /Sleep for 2-3 hours in the morning and again in the afternoon. This helps shut down the needs of your other systems so that your immune system can work and fight the virus. 

Best position for resting or sleeping

The best position for resting or sleeping is on your stomach as it improves the capacity of the lungs. If this is an uncomfortable position for you, try placing a pillow under the abdominal area to support your back. If you have back problems and are unable to lie on the stomach, lie on your side with a pillow in front of you and rest your knee on the pillow. In this position you are between your side and your stomach. If you are using oxygen, make sure you turn slowly, so you do not get tangled in the oxygen tubes. Move your position every 1-2 hours.

Shortness of breath

A common symptom is shortness of breath. You need to concentrate your breathing efforts to the lower part of the chest so you use the diaphragm and not just the upper part of the chest. Better expansion of the lung tissue allows more oxygen for the body and the all important immune system. Do the exercises in sitting or on a raised bed of 30-60 degrees. 

If you are struggling with shortness of breath, sit on the side of the bed with your elbows on your knees, slightly bent forwards, or sit next to a table /bed, and bend forwards with your head and arms resting on the table/bed. Try to breathe slowly and evenly. If you are only comfortable on your back, then lift the bed 30-60 degrees, so you are not lying flat. 

Exercises that you should try to improve your breathing are:

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  • Wrap your hands around your lower ribs and chest.  Inhale and try to direct the air to the area where your fingertips are. Inhale through your nose for 3 seconds, hold your breath for 1 second and then exhale through your mouth like you are blowing out a candle for 6 seconds. Focus on exhaling all the air out the lungs. Do this 3-4 times initially as you get used to this you can increase to 10 repetitions every hour.
  • Place both your hands behind your head if you don’t have a shoulder problem. If your shoulders are stiff or painful preventing this position, place your hands on your shoulders and lift your elbows as high as comfortable.

a.)As you inhale through your nose, look upwards and you will feel your ribs lifting in the front. Breathe out through your mouth, bending the body forwards a little.

b.)Bend to one side as you inhale and exhale while you return to the middle. Repeat to both sides. 

c.)Rotate your body to one side as you breathe in  and exhale as you return to the middle. Release to both sides. Release all 3-4 times until you can increase to 10 hourly.

  • If you have a bottle and a straw, fill the bottle with water and blow into the water through the straw. Make sure you exhale all your breath, then inhale through your nose. Repeat set 3-4 times, slowly increase to 10 times. 

If you feel lightheaded or dizzy at any time, take a break and breathe normally. 

The Covid cough is usually a dry cough, but in a few cases, it may be productive of sputum. If this is the case then please check the colour. If it is white it is ok. If it is yellow, brown or green you may have an infection and you should call your doctor. 

Movement is good, but don’t get tired. Walk around the house or room a couple of times every hour to get the circulation moving, or do foot pumps.

Hydration is important for the functioning of the immune system

Drink plenty of water, your urine colour should be a pale yellow.

Common supplements prescribed for COVID-19

Vitamin D, C and zinc supplements have been commonly prescribed in the treatment of Covid-19, they are critical for a well functioning immune system and play a vital role in promoting health and nutritional well being. There is currently no evidence or guidance on the effectiveness of micronutrient supplements as a treatment for Covid-19. It is important that the dosage of all supplements intake not exceed the recommended nutrient intake depending on age or according to the medical guidelines of the individual. 

Covid-19 is a virus that affects your lungs. Most people have mild symptoms, but many have more serious symptoms and need to be medicated. Please consult the doctor for more medical advice on your particular case.

Written by

Mel Potgieter

Registered Physiotherapist | HKNA Elite Programme Physiotherapy Partner

Mel is an experienced physiotherapist based out of the Prohealth Sports And Spinal Physiotherapy Centre on Wellington Street, Central. She is an expert in pelvic dysfunction, back pain, getting the core going after pregnancy, post-mastectomy and abdominal /cosmetic surgeries, lymph drainage for cancer patients, as well as acute sports injuries and post surgery rehabilitation. Outside of the clinic, she is a formidable netball player and is active in the Hong Kong Netball Association.