Physios have much to learn about post-viral fatigue

Physical therapists have a lot to learn about post-viral fatigue in the wake of a “tsunami” of long COVID patients

ScienceLine have an article about how ME/CFS methods of pacing are being applied to large number of people coming in with Long COVID symptoms.


The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a mass disabling event leaving behind a new generation of patients with post-viral fatigue. While the health system was immediately overwhelmed with hospitalizations, a growing movement of survivors experiencing debilitating, long-term symptoms worked to coin the term “long COVID.” Now, physical therapists are the next group within the healthcare system that is poised to have a lasting effect on people’s quality of life.

The symptom of post-exertional malaise is the most common symptom of myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), a complex chronic disease that is usually triggered by an infection and affects an estimated 15-30 million people worldwide. While experts are still unclear about the differences between long COVID and ME/CFS, it is clear that many patients who survived acute COVID infection are developing this misunderstood malaise.

Physical therapy practices thus need to be incredibly individualized depending on how much activity someone can handle. Physical therapists need to understand malaise in order to help people learn how to pace themselves so that they don’t crash their unreliable energy systems, according to Todd Davenport, vice-chair of the physical therapy doctorate program at the University of the Pacific. 

“If somebody has post-exertional malaise, we have to be very cautious in prescribing progressive activity because that activity can exacerbate symptoms.”

A physical therapist, therefore, has two important roles: helping a long COVID patient learn exercises that will be helpful without making them crash and empowering patients to have a better understanding of what is happening to their bodies. 

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