The effects of Covid can linger long after the infection has cleared, with issues such as breathlessness causing problems months beyond the infection. So, is there any post-Covid treatment that can help?

a woman with her hands on her upper chest experiences breathlessness post-Covid

Covid infection: gone but not forgotten

It’s not uncommon for viral infections to produce symptoms that persist. The common cold virus can come and go in a few days, but many of us experience a week or two of persistent coughing and low energy.

The same is true for Covid. Many people find they have symptoms such as chest tightness, breathing trouble and fatigue after a Covid infection has cleared. But for some, these post-Covid symptoms can go on for months. In fact, research by the Chinese University of Hong Kong suggests that post-Covid (or ‘long Covid’) syndrome affects around two million people in Hong Kong, in some cases lasting for two years.

Why do some people get post-Covid syndrome?

The science around long Covid is improving all the time, and researchers are developing a better understanding of those factors that mean some people experience ongoing Covid symptoms.

In one large-scale study in the US, a group of researchers looked at health and  physiological data of people who had respiratory infections. Only some of these infections were Covid, others had infections of a different type. While there were a lot of similarities in their data, the Covid sufferers stood out in a couple of ways.

First, their activity levels decreased, and their sleep increased, even before they showed symptoms. Second, there was an increase in their resting heart rate. While this is typical of many infections, it usually settles back to baseline within around four days of an infection clearing. With Covid, it took an average of 79 days, and in 14% of cases, 133 days.

So, what triggers these abnormalities and the other symptoms of post-Covid syndrome? One suggestion is that some people have been found to have ‘stickier’ blood following a Covid infection, which may be leading to tiny clots. In other cases, people’s immune systems remain in a state of overdrive, failing to reset after the infection has cleared. This puts them in a state of constantly raised inflammation. These issues may go a long way to accounting for symptoms such as fatigue and brain fog.

The osteopathic approach: boosting recovery

Both the virus itself and the coughing it produces can leave patients with rib pain, costochondritis, muscle tightness and fatigue, all of which can be eased by a combination of soft tissue and specific mobilisation techniques.

One of the effects peculiar to Covid seems to be to leave people with a poor breathing pattern. They tend to breathe in the upper chest, rather than drawing breath down to the base of the lungs where efficient gas exchange happens. Olympic athlete, Guy Learmont, commented that he had to ‘learn to breathe again’ following a Covid infection that nearly ended his career.

Osteopaths are experts in improving function. This includes assessing and treating the ‘machinery’ of breathing – the ribs, spine, diaphragm and neck. Our director at OCHK, Stephen Watts, explains his experience of treating patients post-Covid:

When I first treated clients with post-Covid symptoms, they’d booked in for other problems. As I assessed them, the tightness around their chest, ribs and neck jumped out at me – it was only then they mentioned they’d been having ongoing problems. Luckily, osteopathy has a host of technique options for the ribs, lymphatics, spine and nervous system that can be applied to reduce troublesome symptoms, such as difficulties with breathing and sleeping.

Now, it’s a routine thing for all our osteopaths to check with clients about their ‘post-Covid’ status – although assessing them still often gives it away. Clients find that treatment allows them to breathe more easily, they feel more relaxed, less fatigued, and they sleep better. So really, my aim is to boost their health, allowing their bodies to get on with the recovery process to the full.”

And it’s not just osteopathy that can aid patients back to health. Working with a yoga therapist can be an excellent way to normalise and improve breathing patterns. Yoga teaches conscious breathing and can increase lung capacity and function. Learning this breathwork activates the parasympathetic nervous system, reducing stress, lowering blood pressure, and aiding digestion and sleep. So, alongside addressing post-Covid breathing dysfunction, yoga has a host of other health benefits that can help get you on track to recovery.

Are you struggling with post-Covid symptoms?

The OCHK team in Central is ready to help. Why not book a session with one of our health experts and find out how we can make a difference to your health?

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