The Physiotherapist’s Role in Respiratory Rehab and Covid-19 Treatment

What is respiratory difficulty?

Respiratory difficulty is a condition affecting the organs and structures that are responsible for breathing. The disease ranges from a mild symptom like common cold to a life-threatening disease such as bacteria pneumonia.

Causes of respiratory difficulty

Respiratory disease may be caused by infections, by smoking tobacco, by inhalation of smokes from fire or fumes, trauma to the chest such as after a car accident.

Signs and symptoms

• Cough, dry or productive cough.
• Shortness of breath.
• Chest pain.
• Wheeziness in the chest maybe heard.
Types of respiratory disease
• Asthma
• Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
• Pulmonary fibrosis
• Pneumonia
• Lung cancer

Role of physiotherapists

The role of respiratory physiotherapist includes and not limited to the following;
• Exercises and physical manipulation to help clear fluid or secretions on the chest or lungs.
• Training to improve stamina (functional abilities and exercise tolerance)
• To teach appropriate breathing patterns and controls which in turn improve lung capacity and/or breathing efficiency, thereby reducing the incidence and severity of breathlessness.
• Educate patients on healthy habits and practices.
• Support with weaning from ventilators and further non-invasive mechanical ventilators.
• Helps to mobilize the thorax and shoulder girdle with proper postural awareness.
Physiotherapy intervention
• Mobilization and exercises: to elicit an exercise stimulus that addresses various steps in the oxygen transport pathway or some combination.
• Postural awareness: by teaching correct spine and upper chest position while sitting and working to encourage chest expansion.
• Breathing control exercises designed to improve ventilation, retrain respiratory muscles and decrease work of breathing.
• Range of motion exercises to improve physical strength and flexibility.
• Postural drainage: consist of positioning by using gravitational effects to assist in clearing a specific area of the lungs.
• Massage manipulations which involves the use of mechanical and manual percussion to transmit oscillatory forces into the lungs to aid mucus transport in addition to postural drainage and coughing.

With the current pandemic going on around the world, it is known that respiratory difficulty is part of the severe symptoms of covid-19, with a minority of the cases developing respiratory difficulties. Physiotherapist management not only helps to speed up recovery but also reduced the long term stay of patients in ICU as well as dependence on ventilators. It is also recommended that patients follow a maintenance program even after recovery to minimise the risk of relapse or further difficulties.

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