Can Physical Therapy Help My Muscles After Having Covid?

physical therapy after covid-19

Unfortunately, Covid-19 has become a major part of all of our lives.

If you’re unlucky enough to contract Covid-19, it comes with a whole host of symptoms in most cases. Symptoms that differ widely from person to person.

But one of the most common symptoms we see in patients recovering from severe illness and Long Covid is muscle weakness and loss of strength. 

Do your legs unusually hurt after climbing the stairs?

Is sitting and standing up from a chair now a struggle?

Are your arms too weak to carry shopping bags?

Do you find it difficult to grip or unscrew lids?

These are all signs of muscle weakness. 

For many patients, the muscle weakness after Covid-19 infection can be so severe that they either give up work altogether or this new weakness forces them to switch careers and find a job, a less labor-intensive role that doesn’t rely on a certain level of physical strength.

It is thought that there are now “millions” of Americans affected by the after-effects of Covid-19. So, if you’re struggling with pain, stiffness, muscle weakness, headaches, chronic fatigue, or more severe symptoms like breathlessness and heart inflammation, you’re not alone. 

According to two recent publications from the Journal of the American Medical Association, ten to thirty percent of individuals who had COVID-19 reported at least one persistent symptom up to six months after the virus left their bodies.

That means 3 to 10 million Americans are experiencing symptoms of Long COVID, which are varied and ongoing, including neurological challenges, cognitive problems such as brain fog, shortness of breath, fatigue, pain, and mobility issues.

“We must act now to form and implement a national crisis management plan that will help Americans impacted by PASC not only survive COVID-19 but regain their quality of life and return to being active members of their communities.”

– Stuart M. Weinstein, MD, FAAPMR, AAPM&R President.

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What Are The Signs, Symptoms, And After-Effects of Covid-19 Infection?

covid symptoms

Due to a combination of genetic factors, pre-existing medical conditions, vaccine status, and plain ol’ luck, some people experience only mild illness. Their symptoms mimic the “common cold,” such as a headache, sore throat, and joint pain.

Their symptoms pass quickly, and when the state-governed isolation period ends, they forget all about it and enthusiastically get on with life – like it never even happened. This scenario is the most likely in children.

If you’re over 40, the statistics suggest that you will likely suffer from a more moderate form of Covid-19 illness. But this is not always the case. 

Unfortunately for others at the opposite end of the spectrum, Covid-19 causes serious illness.

First, they’re hospitalized due to severe respiratory distress, resulting in life-threatening pneumonia. Then, they spend weeks, sometimes even months, in the ICU battling multi-organ failure and other complications.

Finally, they balance precariously on the brink of death until their body finally shows small signs of recovery. But even then, this is followed by a lengthy recovery and rehabilitation process when they get home from the hospital. 

Others fall in the middle – with mild to moderate illness initially – that don’t get better as expected. Instead, this group of people – both young and old – develop “Long Covid  .”Long Covid or Post-Covid-19 Syndrome as its sometimes called is, primarily, an unknown entity that researchers around the world are investigating.

But the term is used to describe a set of symptoms that continue long after the initial infection. The symptoms are different for everyone, but the most common symptoms of Long Covid we see include:

  • Muscle and joint pain 
  • A continuous cough and breathlessness
  • Heart inflammation and “POTS.”
  • Headaches and dizziness
  • Brain fog, memory problems, and confusion 
  • Nausea, loss of appetite, and other digestive issues
  • Depression, anxiety, and PTSD
  • “Anosmia” – loss of smell and taste
  • Hair loss
  • Skin rashes and dermatological issues

So, the patients most at risk of muscle weakness after Covid-19 are people who have spent time in hospital with Covid-19 and those with Long Covid.

The patients we see with muscle weakness after Covid-19 tell us that it is one of the most troubling symptoms because it makes them feel “weak” and extra vulnerable.

If that sounds like you, don’t worry. We can help. 

What Causes Muscle Weakness After Covid-19?

weak muscles caused by covid-19

It doesn’t matter how severe your original infection was and whether you have Long Covid. If you’re recovering from Covid-19, you can be laid up in bed – either at home or in hospital, for many weeks and months.

This prolonged inactivity causes your muscles to lose strength and become weak.

Typically, you would get back to the gym and build your strength back up again, right? But the after-effects of Covid-19, especially in the case of Long Covid, make this difficult.

Why? Because the pain, stiffness, and risk of overexertion usually result in you feeling worse than you did before. 

We call this ” overtraining ” when you train above your max heart rate. “Overtraining even when you’re fit leads to fatigue and lowered immunity. So it’s a recipe for disaster post-Covid when one of your aims is to reduce the crushing, post-viral fatigue. 

How Physical Therapy Helps Your Muscles After Covid

building up muscles after covid

If you choose to work with a physical therapist after Covid-19, we can help you determine how hard you need to work to increase your strength while avoiding overtraining and exceeding your max heart rate.

By working this out for you and monitoring it. We enable you to work through a therapeutic exercise routine designed to increase your muscle strength at an effective level but, most importantly, safe and not liable to cause more fatigue. 

Also, as you’ve been inactive while battling or recovering from Covid-19, you’re likely to have stiff and sore muscles and joints.

We can help reduce your pain and mobilize your muscles and joints, so you can get more active without pain and stiffness preventing you from doing so. 

But the most important thing we do in post-Covid rehabilitation is monitor your progress. We help you move forward when it’s prudent to do so, of course, which is essential for building strength. 

You can slowly build strength at home over time. Still, if you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired and want to feel strong and energetic fast, you need a physical therapist to speed up and streamline the process. 

How To Choose a Physical Therapist 

choosing a physical therapist

Firstly, unlike some other viruses, the previous infection with Covid-19 doesn’t seem to guarantee immunity, which means it’s still important to avoid catching Covid-19 (again).

When choosing a physical therapist to work with after Covid-19, ensure they have a stringent Covid-19 policy. Check they have safety protocols that prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses that could negatively affect you.  

At LEVEL 4 PT & Wellness, safety and cleanliness have always been one of our top priorities. But since the start of the pandemic, we’ve introduced an even more stringent policy and cleaning practices to keep everyone safe.

For instance, we space out our appointments and have modified our check-in procedure.

We encourage you and all our other clients to bring their masks. We also request that you arrive at the exact time of your appointment, so we don’t have patients congregating in the waiting room.

And, of course, we remind all patients not to come into the clinic if they are sick or have Covid-19 symptoms. 

Secondly, make sure you choose a physical therapist who understands the after-effects of Covid-19 and the post-Covid-19 Syndrome, Long Covid. The effects of Covid-19 infection are multi-faceted, affecting many different parts and systems of the body.

Therefore, healing and rehab require an equally varied approach and a great deal of empathy. Again, particularly on the part of your PT, as many of the symptoms of Long Covid are so-called “invisible symptoms.” 

For this reason, At LEVEL4 PT & Wellness, we offer all new patients recovering from Covid-19 and suffering from Long Covid-related muscle weakness the opportunity to chat with us before committing to treatment.

You can do this in person at the clinic, or you can choose to book a telephone consultation instead. The choice is yours. 

Find Out How We Can Help You Today

How can we help you?

Whether you’re experiencing pain or you just have a question about physical therapy, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

Book your free 30-minute consultation here. We can help with any queries that you may have and help set up a treatment plan that best suits you.

If you’re not ready to book a free consultation yet, you can inquire about the costs and availability of post-Covid physical therapy here – or read more about our health and wellness clinic here.

We help people in Encinitas heal their bodies and find lasting relief from the symptoms of post-Covid-19 Syndrome.

We reduce muscle weakness, stiffness, and pain without medications or other invasive treatments and help you to enjoy life again.





Latest posts by Oscar Andalon, DPT, STC, MTC, CSCS, CF-L1, MWOD, USAW, FMS/SFMA (see all)

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