Research Underscores Value of Physical Therapy During COVID-19 Recovery

Following surgery or extended hospitalization, patients often make plans to see a physical therapist at the urging of their physician. Myriad studies show that physical therapy is a critical part of recovery from any extended hospital stay – including those recovering from COVID-19.

The Mayo Clinic reports that the deconditioning many patients experience after spending weeks in a hospital bed impacts their recovery and increases their risk of developing a new condition or reinjuring themselves, which puts patients at risk for readmission. To reduce the stress of recovery and the chance of readmission, one of the best things patients can do is work with a physical therapist to get moving again. Despite the recognized benefits of physical therapy, data shows it is a part of recovery that’s absent from 55% of discharge summaries, making those patients 2.9 times more likely to be readmitted

With hospitals across the country consistently at capacity treating patients with COVID-19, embracing strategies to reduce readmission rates has become increasingly important. And for COVID-19 survivors, recent cases show that there’s even more incentive to seek out physical therapy. There has been an increasing amount of evidence that COVID-19 survivors still feel the dramatic repercussions of the virus months after they’ve technically recovered. This evidence is part of new research that shows the lingering effects of COVID-19 include the inability to walk and the loss of basic motor skills. Young mothers, voracious athletes, grandparents, and seasoned performers have all been affected by long haul challenges that rendered them immobile and reliant on physical therapists to assist them to increase strength and mobility. While the exact cause of these long-haul effects is unclear, there is no question that physical therapy is vital to the recovery of COVID-19 patients.

Reducing readmission rates also has the added bonus of helping hospitals better manage their resources and avoid overcapacity. Our understanding of COVID-19, including its long-term effects, is still limited and evolving. However, it is evident that physical therapists are playing an essential role in our nation’s long-term recovery from the novel coronavirus.