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Long COVID and the role of physiotherapy: new podcast episode now live

08 Sep 2021

Today is World Physiotherapy Day, a celebration of the unity and solidarity of the global physiotherapy community. This year’s theme is long COVID and safe rehabilitation.

What is long COVID? What are some of the effects, who is most at risk and what can be done to help those who suffer from it? These are some of the questions guiding this episode of Taking care.

Some people have had long term problems after recovering from original COVID-19 infection. Global guidance has been developed to support physiotherapists to manage safe and effective rehabilitation approaches for people living with long COVID.

Host George Hyde is joined by Scott Willis, National President of the Australian Physiotherapy Association, A/Prof Dale Edgar, who is leading the longitudinal study on the effects of COVID termed LATER-19, and practitioner member of the Victorian Physiotherapy Board Dr Paula Harding, a musculoskeletal physiotherapist at the Alfred Hospital prior to COVID-19, who in 2021 was appointed as the Allied Health Workforce Manager for the COVID-19 response.

Scott Willis was one of the 235 people who were infected with COVID-19 in the outbreak in North-West Tasmania in April 2020. ‘I still have lingering symptoms and that is frustrating. I have difficulty with extreme and sustained physical activity.’

‘The toxicity on the neural system seems to cause a multitude of symptoms with long COVID,’ A/Prof Dale Edgar said. ‘These include things like brain fog, memory problems, loss of smell, loss of taste, muscle fatigue, and general fatigue. These last more than 4-8 weeks after recovering from the acute signs of COVID-19.’

The panellists agreed that fatigue is a major factor in long COVID. The LATER-19 trial found that fatigue levels increased from 30% to 40% seven to eight months later amongst people with symptoms of COVID-19.

Dr Harding said physiotherapy has a unique opportunity to offer long COVID patients tailored, individualised treatment ‘that enables them to get that return to their mobility, to the activities they want to be doing and help them pace through the fatigue that is a big part of this.’

Physiotherapists have the baseline skills and, in some cases, broadened their scopes in preparation for this and future pandemics, Mr Willis said.

‘I think we’re only now starting to scratch the surface of what it might mean to set up clinical services for long COVID. I think it’s going to affect communities into the future because we’re going to have to be able to provide effective and efficient treatment and management of these long COVID symptoms.’

Listen to the full episode.

Useful links

  • To read about LATER-19, see A/Prof Edgar’s paper.
  • For more information about physiotherapy, visit the Board’s website.

Did you know?

The Taking care podcast series offers professional and consumer perspectives on current issues and answers some frequently asked questions about public safety in healthcare. Download and listen to the latest Taking care episode today.
Ahpra releases a new episode fortnightly, discussing current topics and the latest issues affecting safe healthcare in Australia. You can also listen and subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and by searching ‘Taking Care’ in your podcast player.

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Page reviewed 8/09/2021