'I'm a Physical Therapist and This is How I'm Recovering From Covid-19'
June 15, 2020

I beat the novel coronavirus last spring. Still, its lingering effects are a daily reminder that I’m still recovering from Covid-19. Months after, I continued to struggle with mid-back pain, difficulty breathing, constipation, digestion issues, sluggishness, and persistent anxiety. And I’m not alone. About 10 percent of all people who contract Covid-19 will experience long-haul symptoms, reports The Journal of the American Medical Association. As a result, they’ll spend weeks (or even months) struggling with any number of small, yet concerning, changes to their bodies—even after they’re no longer contagious.

As a physical therapist and certified yoga teacher, I’ve studied, practiced, and taught the healing powers of the mind-body connection for most of my life. And I relied on many of the principles of my training while recovering from Covid-19. Here are some of the evidence-backed practices I’ve found helpful for coping with the pain and healing holistically. In addition, I’ve added my observations from my own experience.

To make it easier, I’ve broken the information down by specific symptom below. And this is the short yoga practice focused on opening the chest, lungs and diaphragm. Plus the two respiratory support practices that I used to address my Covid-19 long-haul symptoms.

As always, consult your doctor before adopting any treatment protocol.

Mid-back compression

I had mid-back pain that felt heavy and compressed—almost like I couldn’t access part of my lungs. The yoga flow and breathing techniques I highlighted about helped me to create space for breath in my torso.

Tight hips

Mornings were slower for me while I was recovering from Covid-19. My energy levels were low and I was slow to get breath circulating. I often found myself in a cowering, protective position, slumping inward. Over time, this took its toll. My chest muscles, hip flexors and back all felt tight. It took conscious awareness and consistent movement to improve my posture and alleviate this tension.

Shortness of breath

I often felt like the act of getting a full breath required effort and awareness as well. It was as if I was sipping air and constantly working to breathe from my diaphragm. I used the respiratory support practices laid out above to retrain my lungs and diaphragm for ease and efficiency of taking deep breaths. I also used the mindfulness techniques of the Breathing Toolbox Practices below to enhance my breathing awareness.

3 Breathing Exercises to Aid Recovering From Covid

  1. Hand Breathing
  2. Box Breathing
  3. Finding a Productive Cough

These practices helped me deepen my breath and increase my breathing load. Another tool that I relied on heavily was an incentive spirometer (a small device used for measuring lung capacity). I ordered the Voldyne 5000 Volumetric Exerciser, and used it to track my breathing rehabilitation progress objectively and often.

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