As we reach what seems to be the end of the deadly second wave of Covid-19 in India, several recovering patients stare at a long haul of dealing with persisting symptoms — now being defined as ‘long Covid’ by doctors. In light of the situation, News18 will run a 15-day series ‘Decoding Long Covid‘ where doctors with different specialisations will address concerns, recommend ways to deal with them and suggest when to seek help.
In today’s column, Dr Debashish Chanda from the department of orthopaedics at Gurgaon’s CK Birla Hospital talks about the damaging impact of long-term steroid use and the slow and difficult recovery of muscle strength in Covid-19 patients who had been hospitalised or were put on bed rest.
In an interview with News18 Dr Chanda said, “Prolonged illnesses and weeks of compulsory bed rest tend to impact all systems of the body, one of these areas being the musculoskeletal system. Symptoms such as fatigue, myalgia (muscle aches and pain), and arthralgia (multiple joint pain with stiffness) are common after Covid-19, and their prevalence is now increasing.”
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While an extended period of bed rest can cause bones and muscles to weaken, recovery can take a long time after a severe illness like Covid-19. “It takes at least six weeks or more to regain muscle strength after extended periods of immobility,” he explained.
Dr Chanda said that patients who have been hospitalised because of Covid-19 or who have been prescribed bed rest at home might find it hard to even stand, walk, or be active. The use of steroids in the treatment of Covid can also cause problems. “Though a short course of 10-15 days steroids don’t cause any issues, many of the patients were on long-term steroid therapy may be at higher risk of osteoporosis and increased joint arthritis,” said the doctor.
Post-Covid physical rehabilitation therapy can help people who experienced decreased mobility associated with more extended bed rest.
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“This can help people regain strength, increase flexibility, and restore independence. As muscle starts to respond to the added stress of activity, it begins to build more fibres and use more oxygen. Simple activities to build strength, increase balance, and flexibility can be done, such as yoga, walking inside and outside the home, strengthening and stamina training-also help. Regular intake of vitamins like D3 & B12 also aids in strengthening muscles and bones,” said Dr Chanda.
He suggested some home remedies too. Turmeric milk, desi ghee, a high protein diet and garlic help joint lubrication and strengthening. “Some over-the-counter medications like glucosamine, curcumin (turmeric extracts) also help, but it is advised to consult a doctor about it,” he said.