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COVID-19 Recovery: How Speech and Physical Therapy Help

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Recovering from COVID-19 can be a lengthy process and comes with the possibility of complications. If you or someone you love had COVID-19 and are still experiencing lingering symptoms and complications, we’re here to help with expert advice from a few of our team members in speech and physical therapy at AdventHealth Sports Med and Rehab.

Speech Therapy for COVID-19 Recovery

“Some patients experience a wide range of speech, language, swallowing and cognitive changes following their illness,” says Jessica Conklin, M.S. CCC-SLP, a speech language pathologist at AdventHealth Sports Med and Rehab .

Symptoms to look for include:

  • Brain fog
  • Confusion
  • Decreased breath support for speech
  • Hoarse, raspy voice
  • Memory loss
  • Problem-solving difficulties
  • Swallowing difficulties
  • Word-finding difficulties

Conklin and her colleague, speech therapist Anita Burkhalter, MA, CCC-SLP, LSVT LOUD, explain more about how speech therapy can help with your COVID-19 recovery and alleviate symptoms.

How Long Do These Symptoms Typically Last?

Jessica: “ This is very patient-specific. I wish we had an exact time frame, but we don’t, unfortunately. Some patients experience transient changes that come and go, while others continue to have difficulties more than a year later. ”

Anita: “It’s best to have treatment earlier rather than later, even if deficits are mild.”

Who Is Most At-Risk for Developing Speech Complications After Having COVID-19?

Jessica: “Those who have experienced a complicated course of COVID-19, especially those admitted to the ICU, are at high risk for complications. Intubation, ventilation and use of life support are all risk factors. This is often seen in post-intensive care syndrome (PICS) patients. ”

Anita: “Patients with existing health issues, such as history of stroke or dementia, are also at a greater risk for complications.”

How Can Speech Therapy Help Patients Recover From COVID-19?

Jessica: “Speech therapy can assist COVID-19 recovery in a variety of ways. We can complete voice and breathing exercises, swallowing exercises and safe swallowing strategies. We provide memory improvement exercises and memory strategies to improve overall function during daily activities. We complete activities and exercises targeting overall cognition to return to your prior functioning level.”

Are There At-Home Speech Therapy Exercises You Can Suggest?

Jessica: “ Our treatment plans are tailored to each individual patient, so an in-person evaluation is the best way to get a patient centered exercise plan. If in-person is not feasible, we also offer telehealth services. If neither of these are an option, the book ‘10 Ways to Love Your Brain’ published by the Alzheimer’s Association is a great way for anyone to care for their brain.”

Physical Therapy for COVID-19 Recovery

Richard Courtney, PT, DPT, a geriatric clinical specialist and neurological physical therapist with AdventHealth Sports Med and Rehab, explains more about COVID-19 recovery from a physical therapy perspective.

As a physical therapist, he notices and treats the following symptoms in post-COVID-19 patients:

  • Decreased balance and/or ambulation ability
  • Decreased cardiovascular endurance
  • Muscle atrophy and weakness
  • Physical deconditioning
  • Shortness of breath with exertion
  • Tight, stiff muscles

Richard and his team are here to help your COVID-19 recovery go smoothly with physical therapy. He offers advice and guidance for any COVID-19 “long-haulers” recovering from this disease.

How Long Do Physical Symptoms Usually Last?

Richard: “ Some of these symptoms can be healed in one to two months. Others will take longer. It really depends on the severity of the symptoms; the more severe the symptoms, the longer the recovery.”

Are Some Patients More At-Risk for Complications Than Others?

Richard: “The people who are more at risk for developing physical complications after having COVID-19 likely had health issues before COVID-19, such as diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or living a sedentary lifestyle. Additionally, people who are deconditioned from a cardiovascular or physical standpoint will most likely have more severe complications.”

How Can Physical Therapy Help Patients Recover From COVID-19?

Richard: “ Physical therapy can help patients recovering from COVID-19 if they have any of these complications. We are experts in the musculoskeletal system and have a foundational knowledge of the cardiovascular and neurological systems as well. When we evaluate a patient recovering from COVID-19, we examine all systems that may be affected.”

Do You Suggest At-Home Physical Therapy Exercises?

Richard: “A home-exercise plan is an important component of physical therapy for people who are recovering from COVID-19. As there are potentially a variety of complications after having COVID-19, a physical therapist needs to evaluate a patient before assigning a home-exercise plan. This allows the recommended exercises to be tailored to the person, based on their specific needs and goals.”

Here to Support Your Recovery With Expert Speech and Physical Therapy

At AdventHealth Sports Med and Rehab, Jessica Conklin, Anita Burkhalter and Richard Courtney are dedicated to offering physical and speech therapy to support your COVID-19 recovery and healing. For more information on our programs and find a therapist for your specific needs, visit our website .

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