A never-before seen medical ailment has evolved in the world over the last few years as a result of the worldwide COVID-19 epidemic.

The condition, called “Long COVID-19,” is still so novel that intervention research is only beginning to emerge.

But La Mesa Rehab has already used all available data at hand to create a new, intensive program for those suffering from its symptoms. La Mesa Rehab will reportedly continue to refine its protocols as scientists and doctors learn more about the disease’s etiology.

Long COVID-19 is a condition defined as the continuation, recurrence of, or emergence of virus symptoms lasting more than four weeks after recovery from the initial, acute phase of the disease. Some patients’ symptoms last up to two years. As of the June 2022 report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC,) 1 in 13 adults in the U.S. (7.5%) had Long COVID-19 symptoms.

La Mesa Rehab’s new Long COVID-19 program is offering continuity of care, working as a total network for patients with the condition. It’s a team approach, with pulmonologists, respiratory therapists, and physical therapists working together for the betterment of “long haulers,” as they’ve come to be known.

Treatment plans unique to each patient

Each patient gets a new treatment plan that differs from that of any other patient because of the widely-varying symptoms across the population, as well as symptoms that change over time within an individual.

These may include: difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, chest tightness or pain, stomach pain, headache, low stamina, fatigue or weakness. And with these sensations comes fear. One patient at the clinic described their plight “You take for granted, that you’re going to breathe…it’s such a natural thing. And when that gets taken away, it’s very scary!”

According to Tami Peavy, MBA, DPT, and founder of La Mesa Rehab, what makes their treatments so unique is that “We design individual protocols, with respiratory therapy and physical therapy at the center of the program. We identify patients’ symptoms and address them systematically and adjust their protocols accordingly.”

Respiratory and physical therapists work closely with referring physicians, together designing individually-tailored programs that reduce shortness of breath, eliminate mucus, and increase lung capacity through exercise, postural strengthening, and breathing techniques. Specialized equipment and techniques are employed in order to more quickly and effectively achieve results. A few of these treatments include: vest therapy, bubble breathing, oxygen therapy, nebulizer treatments, gas exchange analysis, and balloon therapy.

Salt chamber therapy is the newest tool in the arsenal

Salt chamber therapy involves the inhalation by patients of dry salt in the form of a mist to clear lung mucus. Saline solution is placed in a nebulizer, a device that facilitates the inhalation of the mist into the lungs. Compressed oxygen or ultrasonic power breaks up the medicinal liquid into small aerosol droplets that are inhaled from a mouthpiece. Corticosteroids or bronchodilators can be added to the nebulizer to extend the effectiveness.

This procedure is administered within a specially designed salt chamber. The process, also called halotherapy, is quite remarkable, especially considering that it’s derived from a naturally-occurring substance. Dry salt particles shrink and liquefy lung mucus plugs that obstruct airways and aggravate breathing issues. The particles accelerate mucus transport and allow for enhanced cough efficiency. Coughs are more “productive” and the lungs are relived of mucus.

Peavy, a practicing clinician and innovative thinker, came up with the novel methodology. The lofty goal, which she successfully achieved, was to enhance the benefits of pulmonary rehabilitation, and minimize patients’ reliance on prescriptions. Previously, patients would have had to undergo bronchoscopies to remove such mucus plugs.

La Mesa Rehab’s new Long COVID-19 program is based on the clinic’s experience with other lung impairments and diseases. These include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD,) emphysema, chronic bronchitis, pulmonary hypertension, pulmonary fibrosis, and bronchiectasis. Therapists share their knowledge of these conditions with each other and with those who come to them for help. Patient education is provided to help get people with Long COVID-19 back to work more quickly, which is more important than ever during these times of economic difficulty and diminished workplace numbers.

Most lung diseases are treated with drug therapies, including steroids and inhalers. However, numerous published medical reports have shown that pulmonary rehabilitation is much more effective at easing symptoms, and results in a superior quality of life. It has also been documented that improved lung function leads to greater longevity, strength, and endurance, and reduces the number of hospitalizations and readmissions.

For more information, call (619) 466-6077 or view their website at: lamesarehab.com.

The facility is located at: 8380 Center Drive, Suite E, La Mesa.

Editor’s note: This article was provided by Carol Holland Lifshitz.

Photo credit: Pixabay.com

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