Physiotherapy plays crucial role in augmenting immunity, mental health during pandemic; aids treatment, recovery of COVID-19 patients

Physiotherapy not only assists medical specialists in the course of the treatment of COVID-19 patients but also has a definite preventive role for non-COVID persons.

FP Staff June 28, 2020 15:27:41 IST
Physiotherapy plays crucial role in augmenting immunity, mental health during pandemic; aids treatment, recovery of COVID-19 patients

Many of us are aware of the roles of medical specialists and nurses in the treatment of COVID-19 patients but little has been said about the pivotal role of the physiotherapist.

Physiotherapy not only assists medical specialists in the course of the treatment of COVID-19 patients but also has a definite preventive role for non-COVID persons.

Physiotherapy for critically ill COVID-19 cases

Physiotherapy starts from the ICU in aiding the recovery of COVID-19 patients. The physiotherapist can facilitate the more energy-conserving techniques of breathing and mobilisation, which not only promote an enhancement in the oxygenation required for patients who have low oxygenation due to breathing problems, but also helps in boosting their immune system which will in turn help them fight against the disease, according to nationally reputed cardio-pulmonary physiotherapy specialist Veenu Kumar, Head of the Physiotherapy Department at Delhi’s leading Aashlok Hospital.

Airway clearance techniques to clear the lungs from secretions and to keep the lungs patent is a vital role of the physiotherapist. Positioning and early mobilisation of such patients are performed by the physiotherapist which help in the prognosis of COVID-19 patients.

Physiotherapy in post critical COVID-19 cases

According to leading physiotherapists, after COVID-19 patients are discharged from intensive care, there is de-conditioning. They can develop a post ICU syndrome which basically leads to weakness or wasting of muscles, along with emotional and mental symptoms. Physiotherapists are trained to develop the progressive exercise protocols for such patients to counter the weakness of muscles and optimise their functional outcomes. Moreover, physiotherapists can motivate such patients to create a sense of well-being in them.

Physiotherapy's role in non-COVID cases

Physiotherapy can help the people who are not in the COVID-19 category. But only precautions alone cannot protect us against the virus. Rather, we must focus on boosting our immunity by having a good combination of a balanced diet, which should include foods rich in micro-nutrients such as vitamin C, magnesium, zinc and antioxidants, and physical and breathing exercises.

Dr Ashwani Chopra, Director of Aashlok Hospital, advocates physiotherapy for all as well as to his patients for prevention and faster recovery. A firm believer in breathing techniques and stretching exercises to keep both the mind and body fit, he says physiotherapists are the masters of exercise. The specialists know the potential benefits of exercises on the human systems. Since the coronavirus particularly affects the respiratory system first, a physiotherapist can help in strengthening the lungs and the cardiaovascular system in the body with the help of exercises.

Physical exercise is key

As we move from the lockdown to unlock phase, it is of utmost important to be active. The effects of exercise on our bodies are well-known, but the question is if they are being done with the correct techniques and postures. For this, you can seek the help of a qualified and experienced physiotherapist who for guidance on exercises that are beneficial in keeping the mind active despite the COVID-19 outbreak's mental toll, advises Kumar. The leading cardio-respiratory therapist recommends moderate intensity exercises rather than high intensity exercises for enhancing the pro-inflammatory response in the body, which eventually helps in the fight against the virus by boosting immunity.

Physical exercise also helps in the common problems which even people not infected with COVID-19 are facing, like neck, back and shoulder pain. A physiotherapist can educate the people about the ergonomically correct postural patterns to reduce the load on the spine and joints. A physiotherapist is an expert in mobilisation and manipulation to provide relief from pain, says Kumar. Regular exercise maintains the joint integrity and the circulation which prevents the muscles and joints from getting stiff.

Doing simple exercises at home such as rope skipping, static cycling, body-weight exercises like push ups, lunges and squats are helpful in bringing about the above positive effects. However, they should be performed with regular rest intervals.

Breathing exercises must during pandemic

Breathing exercises help in reaching the full capacity of lungs and incorporating them into our lifestyle can prove beneficial during the pandemic.

To fight medical, financial and social stress in the current times, simple breathing exercises like the Diaphragmatic Breathing Technique, Purse Lip breathing, Buteyko breathing technique and thoracic expansion exercises promote the much needed relaxation, Kumar points out.
● Since the diaphragm does 70-80 percent of breathing, performing diaphragmatic breathing regularly is key to stimulating it. Sit comfortably on a chair with relaxed shoulders and place your hands on the diaphragm. Now inhale through the nose, allowing the stomach to go out and then exhale through the mouth. Performing it 3-4 times at a stretch and 2-3 times a day will stimulate the diaphragm.

Physiotherapy plays crucial role in augmenting immunity mental health during pandemic aids treatment recovery of COVID19 patients

● Pursed Lip breathing technique is to sit comfortably on a chair with relaxed shoulders, take in a deep breath from the nose and hold it and then exhale slowly via the mouth with pursed lips. This will create a small positive pressure which prevents the collapse of the airway.

Physiotherapy plays crucial role in augmenting immunity mental health during pandemic aids treatment recovery of COVID19 patients

● In thoracic expansion exercises, one has to inhale a deep breath from the nose while taking the hands outwards and bringing back the hands while blowing the air out from the mouth. As the name suggests, this helps in promoting the expansion of the thorax and it eventually creates more space for the air to enter.

Physiotherapy plays crucial role in augmenting immunity mental health during pandemic aids treatment recovery of COVID19 patients

● Buteyko breathing technique is a specialised school of breathing which focuses on only breathing through the nose both during the day and while sleeping. Nose breathing is regarded as the normal physiological mode of breathing for human beings due to its potential health benefits. The Buteyko breathing techniques help in opening the airways and improve blood circulation in a matter of minutes. These are more direct and tailored as per the requirements of individuals for different age groups from teenagers to senior citizens. Buteyko also focuses on ‘control pause’ which involves timing how comfortably the breath hold can be performed after the exhalation. The goal of this is to reach the control pause of 40 or more seconds which is considered as being normal for the lungs. It can also be a tool to test the functionality of the lungs.

Physiotherapy plays crucial role in augmenting immunity mental health during pandemic aids treatment recovery of COVID19 patients

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