Thousands of people in Lanarkshire are suspected to be suffering the effects of long COVID.
Around 10 per cent of those who have had the virus suffer from prolonged illness - and with approximately 38,000 cases of COVID-19 diagnosed in Lanarkshire, as many as 4000 people could be suffering from the condition.
Accurate statistics are not yet available, but help for those still suffering from the illness is available through a team of dedicated physiotherapists.
Recovery from COVID-19 can take weeks – even months – until people start to feel themselves again.
Long COVID symptoms range from common ones, such as fatigue and fever to anxiety and muscle pains, to more unusual symptoms such as heart palpitations, skin problems and even hallucinations.
One of the most common post-COVID symptoms – especially for people who have been in hospital – is continued shortness of breath, regardless if they’re motionless or moving around.
Many of these patients get better progressively with rest, exercises and a gradual increase in activity.
That’s where NHS Lanarkshire’s team of physios comes in.
They’re currently working with a number of “long COVID” patients who are experiencing breathlessness and teaching them breathing techniques.
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Carolyn Bell, Physiotherapy Lead at University Hospital, Monklands, said: “Breathlessness is very frightening.
“People who have had COVID may have been very breathless or had a cough and this can change the way that they breathe.
If people have to work hard to breathe, it can make them feel very tired and anxious.
“We work with people to identify how their breathing pattern may have changed due to COVID – and teach them how to correct it.
“Normal breathing, when you’re at rest, consists of breathing into and out through your nose. The diaphragm moves up and down drawing air into your lungs.
“But after COVID, some people find they’ve started using the muscles in their neck and shoulders which can make the problems worse.
“In trying to return breathing to a more normal pattern, one technique we use involves “letting go” of their neck and shoulders and breathing in and out, through their nose.
"As they let go, they’ll notice their tummy gently rising and falling as they breathe in and out. They can remind themselves to carry this out throughout the day by thinking “stop, drop, flop”.
Used regularly, this simple technique can help improve breathlessness which is one of the most persistent – and unpleasant – symptoms of long COVID.
Patients who are experiencing long term symptoms of COVID-19 will initially be encouraged to self-care, at home, but if more specific help is required they may be referred to the physiotherapy service by their GP or other health care provider.
Once they’ve been assessed, they may be given a programme of graded exercise and advice on pacing themselves, taking things in gradual steps.