COVID-19 Recovery and Return to Physical Activity

COVID-19 Recovery and Return to Physical Activity By: Dr. Laura Wenger, PT, OCS, FAAOMPT

As we move into spring of this year, I can’t help but feel a heavy wave of anxiety and stress when thinking about this past year and the realm of emotions it has brought into my life and the lives of most everyone in the world: uncertainty, fear, and worry to name a few. After speaking with family, friends, and patients, I know that I am not alone. Even with the efficacy of vaccinations and increasing percentages of adults in our community, nation, and world becoming able and willing to have the vaccine, I am still very nervously and hesitantly looking toward days where I don’t have to hyper-analyze nearly every decision made in daily life. Although we are moving slowly and carefully back toward some semblance of “normal”, COVID-19 continues to exist in our community and nation and is still affecting people we know with both new infections as well as some cases of long-term COVID effects, or “Long COVID”.

As more information is gathered about the exact effects of COVID-19 on our bodies, the profession of physical therapy has also been given more guidance on how to help our patients safely return to activity after they have been diagnosed and recovered from the disease. One thing that is evident is that COVID-19 affects surviving individuals in a large variety of ways, from a range of people that don’t have any symptoms present at all to some who feel effects from the disease for months following their active infection. Even for those individuals who have only mild to moderate symptoms and recover quickly with no long-term effects, research currently recommends waiting at least seven days after their symptoms are gone before starting a slow, progressive process of returning to exercise that should take approximately four to five weeks to return to their pre-COVID baseline.(1) Furthermore, for those individuals who experience a more severe case or have any prior history of cardiovascular diseases, specific testing by a cardiologist is recommended in order to return to exercise due to the higher risk of cardiac complications or blood clotting events after COVID.(1) These recommendations are based on the fact that this novel disease is demonstrated to affect all systems in your body, but especially the lungs and heart.(1)

I’m dreaming of summer hikes like this one that I took up to Columbine Lake last year for a socially-distanced exercise adventure!

Ultimately, physical therapists and all other health professionals are becoming more equipped to guide patients through post-COVID recovery as more information and data becomes available. As exercise specialists, physical therapists can successfully guide individuals through a progressive program to return back toward their baseline level of fitness after they have recovered from a COVID-19 infection, as long as they have been cleared by their physician. As our community continues to navigate this new world within the existence of COVID-19, I know I’m not the only one who looks forward to seeing more of you out on the trails that we all love to have in our backyard, and I’m looking forward to helping more people get out there safely.

1. Salman D, Vishnubala D, et al. Returning to physical activity after covid-19. BMJ. 2021;372:m4721

Congratulations to our own Laura Wenger for receiving her board certification of Orthopedic Clinical Specialist (OCS)!

It has been a pleasure for all of us at Rakita Tomsic to work with our friend and colleague Laura Wenger for this past year. Everyone on our diverse team comes from different modality, education and training backgrounds, and Laura is no exception.

It has been a busy year for her as she has completed her residency training in preparation to sit for her ABPTS Orthopaedics Specialist (also known as Orthopedics Specialist) certification examination last spring in Santa Fe. In the field of physical therapy, specialization was created to formally recognize advanced clinical knowledge, skills, and experience.

To be eligible to sit for this specialist examination, one is usually required to have three years of experience, with at least 2,000 hours spent in Orthopaedic Physical Therapy. Laura fast-tracked this process by completing an American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)-accredited post-professional clinical residency with a focus on Orthopaedics. She was able to complete this residency program at University of Utah, which was a year-long program that included working with patients for 30 hours a week with another 10-30 hours per week involved in didactics, weekly mentorship, specialty observations in niches of Orthopaedic care, clinic observations with Orthopaedic and physical medicine and rehab (PM&R) MDs, and assistant teaching in the Doctoral Physical Therapy program.

Sitting for the Orthopaedics Specialist certification examination in Spring was the culmination of a year of intense focus, dedication, long hours, and passion for her trade, and we are proud to announce that she passed with flying colors! Laura received notification of her passing this June, adding three more letters of accreditation to her name (OCS). With this test and board certification under her belt, Laura has officially joined Ellen here at Rakita Tomsic as the second specialized Physical Therapist at our clinic, and only the the third in Durango!

We are pleased not only to add to our diversity of training and specializations, but for this tremendous (and well-deserved) accomplishment for our talented co-worker and peer. Congratulations, Laura!