Bielefeld – Since April 2022, Klinikum Bielefeld has been offering specific therapy and training treatment for long-Covid patients in the physiotherapy and occupational therapy outpatient clinic at the Bielefeld – Mitte location. Approximately 570 therapies have been carried out to date. Almost a year later, the team of specialized therapists takes stock – and wants to continue the successful project.
Tiredness and rapid or pronounced exhaustion after physical or mental exertion, difficulty concentrating, limited performance – 10-15% of patients complain of a variety of up to 200 different symptoms after infection with SARS-CoV-2. Doctors refer to these long-term consequences as long or post-Covid syndrome. Those affected often do not know who to turn to and what to do when their ability to function in everyday life at work, but also their quality of life is impaired.
At the Bielefeld Clinic, a team of physiotherapists and occupational therapists can also help those affected after their acute illness so that they can recover as quickly as possible if they have reduced resilience and other functional restrictions. The employees are specially trained in the treatment of (long) Covid.
“At the beginning of outpatient physiotherapy, information about complaints and medical history is taken and the main problems and goals of the patients are identified. Certain test procedures determine the current status and are used for verification in the course of the process. Depending on the goal, we then use respiratory physiotherapy, endurance training, adapted strength training or vibration training on a special vibration platform,” explains physiotherapist Roberta Fabrizio. She has been working at Klinikum Bielefeld since January 1st, 2023 and looks after long-Covid patients here, among other things. “But it is also important to have individually guided self-training within your own stress limits. In the case of stress intolerance and fatigue (chronic state of fatigue), patients learn to recognize and comply with their own stress limit and to manage their own energy reserves in all activities.
The aim of outpatient therapy is for your own body to develop more strength, more endurance and better coordination. The improvement of performance for work and everyday life is supported by targeted therapeutic measures to make the patients “fit for everyday life again”.
“Initially, the focus was more on the acutely seriously ill who suffered from consequential damage after a stay in a Covid intensive care unit. It is now known that even after mild courses, long-Covid symptoms severely affect the lives of patients. The public has become much more accepting and aware of the disease, there are already an increasing number of studies and new findings, but research needs time and support,” says the physiotherapist.
The treatment of long-Covid patients differs from the treatment of other physiotherapy tasks in that it is very individual. It is very important to get to know the patients better, to know their needs and their everyday life in order to be able to optimally adapt the treatment. The extent to which the patient is affected by the diagnosis is decisive for further therapy. It is also relevant whether the patients experience support from family and friends at home, but also in general, or whether there are problems with the employer that arose from the diagnosis.
“There is no real guide to treating long-Covid patients. Every long-Covid course is as individual as the patients themselves. There are S1 guidelines for long or post-Covid patients, which primarily contain information on diagnostics. It also states that there is no causal therapy and that rehabilitation is recommended, but no information on therapy options,” explains the physiotherapist. However, by participating in special training courses for physiotherapists and occupational therapists and by sharing their experience, you and your colleagues have the opportunity to develop individual therapy plans depending on the patient’s treatment objectives.
But even after the treatment in the clinic, reports Roberta Fabrizio, the training for those affected continues: “At home, the patients can do exercises that we give them and through the awareness of their own limits, which we share work out in the treatment, continue training independently – for example through targeted breathing therapy exercises to improve the lung volume or active movements to increase strength and endurance.”
This is also the case with a 28-year-old long-Covid patient who wishes to remain anonymous. In January 2023, she came to the physiotherapy outpatient clinic at the Bielefeld Clinic for treatment. After a mild course of Covid infection in the summer of 2022, she has since suffered from severe exhaustion, exercise intolerance and an increased heart rate: “Due to my illness, I am already unable to work at the age of 28 and my everyday life and my social life are severely restricted.”
After two months of treatment, she has hope for improvement: “I’m already noticing the first positive changes. However, my condition continues to be a constant up and down.”
The constant exhaustion is still causing her difficulties, but she would like to be able to go about her everyday life and work again soon: “I’m looking forward to longer walks”. Her physiotherapist Roberta Fabrizio showed her breathing, stretching and strengthening exercises, which she can also do at home. Important here: The performance limits of the patients are always observed.
Patients with a physiotherapy/physiotherapy prescription can now make appointments for long-Covid physiotherapy at Klinikum Bielefeld – Mitte: Tel.: 05 21. 5 81 – 37 63. Registration is Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m o’clock available.
Treatment in the therapeutic outpatient clinic of the clinic is possible with a prescription from the family doctor or specialist with the diagnosis “Condition after Covid infection, post-/long-Covid”. Important: This is not a special medical outpatient clinic (long-Covid outpatient clinic).