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Breathworks Recovery

How does COVID-19 work?

Covid- 19 is caused by virus droplets that infect cells and primarily reproduces itself in the lungs. There appears to be 2-3 phases of the infection with the second being a marked inflammatory phase and the third, if presented, affecting systemic organs.

Why are some people asymptomatic?

Most of our immune response takes place in the upper respiratory tract. For approximately 70% of people, their immune system can destroy the virus before it travels to the lower lobes of the lungs where it can do more damage. People who have compromised immune systems, medical comorbidities, and the elderly, have a harder time fighting back the virus before it travels into the lower lungs and reproduces exponentially.

What can I do to improve recovery from COVID?

Staying healthy with a proper diet, plenty of sleep, staying hydrated, and slowly increasing your exercise are all important for recovery. Nose breathing is the most important thing you can do. The nose filters the air and produces a molecule called nitric oxide (NO). NO is an antiviral, anti-bacterial, an anti-inflammatory agent, which helps with gas exchange in the lungs. This is helpful for both prevention and recovery. In addition to nasal breathing, breathing low to your diaphragm versus your chest, and slowing your breath rate is very helpful. Focusing on the exhale, which is the relaxing part of our breath cycle, is also beneficial.

What can a Physical Therapist do to help?

For both mild and severe cases of COVID, your breathing can be adversely affected. Physical Therapists are musculoskeletal experts who can help you to identify areas that are negatively affecting your breathing including joint stiffness, muscle tightness, poor posture, or faulty breathing mechanics. They can make an individualized plan to guide you through your recovery. The sooner you start down the road of recovery, the better the outcome!

For the safety of others, please wait at least 24 hours since your last fever without the use of fever reducing medications and at least 10 days since your first symptoms appeared before scheduling a physical therapy appointment.

Physical Therapists are musculoskeletal experts who can help you to identify areas that are negatively affecting your breathing including joint stiffness, muscle tightness, poor posture, or faulty breathing mechanics.

Until you meet with your physical therapist, here are some things you can do on your own:

  1. Do your best to only breathe through your nose. This may mean you have to slow down a bit. Be aware that wearing a mask increases the resistance and most people will switch to mouth breathing, but really try to stay in your nose. You may have to slow down your movement and your breathing to feel comfortable. If you cannot, then switch to nose breathing when it is safe to take the mask off.
  2. Focus on the exhale. See if you can connect with the relaxing aspect of the exhale. When we are struggling, we tend to over-breathe which means we inhale too much, and don’t exhale well. Play with trying to have your exhale be one count longer than your inhale. Most importantly, breathe only what you need.
  3. See if you can gently and lightly breathe into your diaphragm (low rib/belly region) versus breathing in your chest. Gently rest your hands on the sides of your low ribs, noting that as you inhale your hands move gently out, and as you exhale they gently move back in .
  4. Get moving. Walking, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, any exercise that is done gently and without stressing your body or immune system is extremely important.

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