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Long-Covid Is The Elephant In The Room, Say Physiotherapists

Physiotherapists are calling for an increased focus on the condition known as long-Covid.

Physiotherapy New Zealand’s Cardio-Respiratory Special Interest Group Secretary, Dr Sarah Rhodes says the focus to date has rightly been on the pandemic and vaccinations, but now it’s time to turn attention to the long term health issues.

“The conservative estimate is that one in 10 people who experience an acute Covid infection will go on to develop persistent symptoms such as extreme tiredness and breathlessness. Many will develop symptoms common with other post-viral conditions like ME and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

“Overseas we have seen the impact of this sting in the tail of Covid and watched those affected fight for recognition and treatment of their ongoing symptoms. New Zealand has the opportunity to act decisively now to fund and introduce clear pathways of treatment like long-Covid clinics,” said Sarah Rhodes.

Patients commonly report being unable to manage simple daily tasks such as showering without being wiped out for the remainder of the day. Those living with long-Covid spend a large proportion of their time lying down, which leads to deconditioning and weakness.

“New Zealand physiotherapists have been liaising closely with their overseas counterparts and are well placed to support the management of some aspects of long-Covid. They are skilled in the assessment and management of breathing pattern dysfunction, commonly experienced by those with long-Covid, through recognition of triggers and physiological adaptations, providing strategies to help restore breathing patterns to normal.

“Exercise is a contentious issue in the management of long-Covid, as for many it exacerbates symptoms. Physiotherapists are experts at monitoring the body’s response to physical activity in those with health conditions and can provide individualised, appropriate assessment, with up to date advice and monitoring regarding if, when and how to commence rehabilitation.

“Given the continued rise in acute Covid cases, and the expected increased number of people living with long-Covid, there is an urgency to develop treatment pathways and provide funding to support this currently unmet need,” said Sarah Rhodes.

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