It is widely known that physical therapy (PT) can improve mobility, but it may also help lower mortality among COVID-19 patients. In a new study released by the Association of Academic Physiatrists, patients recovering in the hospital from COVID-19 had a lower incidence of mortality than those who didn’t. Step and Spine Physical Therapy is actively treating patients with COVID-19 to help reduce mortality and long-term negative effects.

The study looked at 1,314 patients admitted between March 1 and May 31 of 2020. Here is a breakdown of how the research played out:

  • The average age of the patients who received PT was 74. The non-PT group average age was 60.63
  • Patients who received PT had more comorbidities and a lower level of physical function before being admitted. 
  • Of the PT patients, only 48% were independent. In comparison, 74% of the non-PT were independent.

Despite the higher rate of comorbidities, lower level of function, and higher age, the patients who received PT fared better. The PT patients had less than half of the mortality rate compared to the non-PT group. 

This is a significant finding that can help save lives. We asked Step & Spine Physical Therapy’s founder, Barrett Ford, to share his thoughts on this study.

“The results speak for themselves when it comes to this study,” said Barrett. “Respiration and blood flow will improve with increased activity and physical therapy, whether a person has COVID or not.” 

For years, Barrett has been telling patients that motion is lotion. He means that movement increases the lubricating fluid that transports nutrients throughout the body and joints to promote healing. It is this transportation of nutrients that is helping COVID-19 patients heal. 

“While some people are getting out more and exercising, the majority of Americans, and specifically the elderly and those who are more at risk during this time of pandemic, are getting out less and are still sedentary, which increases the need for physical therapy,” said Barrett. “Inactivity can do more harm than good, and when you are sick, it can only make things worse.” 

Our best advice is to stay active. The simple act of walking can help your body heal. Of course, you have to listen to your body if you are sick and take things slow. Talk to your doctor and advocate for physical therapy to help you recover from COVID-19.

Physical Therapy for “Long Haulers”

Physical therapy has also been found to be an excellent option for helping “long-haulers” recover. Long-haulers make up around 10% of COVID-19 patients. While recovered from the infection, these patients continue to have symptoms, such as fatigue, weakness, difficulty breathing, and abnormal chest radiographs. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommends a progressive rehabilitation program be initiated within the first 30 days after illness to have the best impact on recovery. Treatment may include manual therapy, resistance exercise training, vestibular rehabilitation to improve dizziness or vertigo symptoms, and diaphragmatic breathing to improve lung capacity.