COVID Recover

Appointment New Patient Appointment or 214-645-8300

Initially thought to be solely a respiratory infection, the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is now known to affect various other organ systems and exert multiple symptoms, potentially exacting a significant toll on the body.

Because SARS-CoV-2 can ultimately affect more than just the respiratory system, the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) specialists at UT Southwestern’s O’Donnell Brain Institute have created an individualized outpatient rehabilitation program – called COVID Recover – designed specifically to help patients restore muscle, lung, and brain function; mental health; and psychological well-being after being infected with COVID-19.

Our multidisciplinary team approach gives patients recovering from COVID-19 access to all of our specialists in one place. We are committed to providing personalized care that meets each patient’s needs to help them get back to good health as soon as possible.

What Is ‘Long’ COVID?

Approximately 80% of patients infected with COVID-19 develop mild to moderate symptoms (fever, dry cough, fatigue) and recover within a few weeks. The other 20% develop more serious symptoms, including severe inflammation, shortness of breath, confusion, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, and organ damage. Severe cases often require hospitalization. For those admitted to intensive care units, stays of three weeks or more are common.

In the course of the pandemic, it has become clear that there is a large and growing group of people who continue to deal with prolonged, lingering symptoms of COVID-19 long after their original illness and well beyond their “normal” course of recovery. This is sometimes referred to as having “Long” COVID or to being part of the patient population referred to as “long haulers.” Research suggests that approximately 30% of patients who recover from COVID will end up developing long-haul symptoms.

For more information on the subject of Long COVID, watch a CDC webinar on the subject in which Kathleen Bell, M.D., Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at UT Southwestern, and other featured experts participated.

With any COVID-19 infection, lying sick in bed at home or in the hospital for an extended period can lead to significant weight loss, weakness, cardiopulmonary deconditioning, and fatigue. Prolonged bedrest can also result in a decrease in muscle mass due to limited use.

Recovery from COVID-19 can be a steep physical and mental grind. Patients are reporting substantial functional challenges, such as lingering lung problems, muscle weakness, and cognitive concerns ranging from "brain fog" to delirium. Even patients with initially mild COVID can develop long-haul symptoms.

Individualized, Comprehensive Support

Once a patient with COVID-19 is discharged or recovering at home and no longer infectious based on clinical symptoms and CDC criteria, the sooner he or she can begin rehab, the better the chances for a full recovery.

Through a combination of therapy, cognitive exercises, and the specialized rehab available in our COVID Recover program, our multidisciplinary team can help patients overcome the effects of the coronavirus on their lungs, muscles, and brain function through programs that target the following bodily systems:

  • Musculoskeletal
  • Pulmonary
  • Neurological, including central (brain) and peripheral (nerves)

As each case demands, our COVID Recover team partners with UT Southwestern experts in cardiology, neurology, pulmonology, infectious disease, and other specialties to design a plan that will address each patient's specific needs and return them quickly to their pre-COVID status.

COVID Recover Virtual Wellness Group

The COVID Recover Virtual Wellness Group is a telehealth (virtual) resource for individuals who have a history of COVID-19 infection. The group is designed to help with rehabilitation for ongoing stress and psychological symptoms related to post-COVID-19 recovery. The purpose of the group is to help provide support strategies for functional impairments related to recovery. A physician evaluation and referral are needed to enter the program.

The group meets virtually once a week for four consecutive weeks and covers the following topics:

Week 1: Improving Brain Health

Week 2: Mental Health and Wellness

Week 3: Physical Activity and Social Connections

Week 4: Strategies to Improve Sleep and Fatigue

The goals of the COVID Recover program are:

  • Preventing further debility
  • Reconditioning the body, targeting aerobic endurance and balance
  • Improving respiratory function
  • Improving mental and brain health
  • Restoring patients’ normal function and mobility
  • Gradually returning patients to work, school, or other social roles

The program starts with a comprehensive PM&R and cognitive evaluation. Treatment may include referrals for reconditioning and strengthening, counseling, group psycho-education therapy, and/or cognitive therapy.

For patients experiencing stress and psychological symptoms, individual counseling is available in addition to the group program when needed.

Additional Help: How to Rehab at Home

Whether a patient’s coronavirus infection has resulted in hospitalization or downtime at home, the recovery process will involve getting back into action. With this in mind, our COVID Recover team has designed a series of exercises that can be done from home to aid in that process. All the exercises are focused on rebuilding lung and muscle function, as demonstrated in the short videos below.

Begin with the breathing exercises because research has shown COVID-19 patients might lose some lung function. Flexibility and mobility exercises will help strengthen muscle groups that may have weakened during bed rest or a hospital stay. Overall conditioning exercises are also recommended to recover balance and good posture.

Breathing Easier After COVID-19

Physical therapist Traci Bacon demonstrates three easy but effective breathing exercises patients can do at home to improve their lung capacity after recovering from the novel coronavirus.

COVID-19: Flexibility & Mobility Exercises

Traci Bacon demonstrates nine stretching exercises that patients can do at home to enhance their flexibility and mobility after recovering from COVID-19.

COVID-19: Conditioning Exercises

Traci Bacon shares 11 exercises that patients can do at home to rebuild their strength and conditioning after recovering from COVID-19.

Request an Appointment

For questions regarding this program, please call 214-645-2080.

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