Trial By Error: Journal Editorial Calls For Caution In Exercise-Based Rehab Programs For Long COVID

By David Tuller, DrPH

The Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy recently published an editorial called  “Humility and Acceptance: Working Within Our Limits With Long COVID and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/ Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.” The editorial emerged from a collaboration between rehabilitation specialists and patients, mostly from Canada. It confronts the conundrum of whether those experiencing what is called Long COVID should be advised to exercise, explicitly linking the issue to the history of misguided interventions for ME/CFS and the symptom of post-exertional malaise.

It is indisputable that people can become deconditioned during post-viral convalescence, to a surprising degree. Thirty years ago, a bout of bronchitis that lasted a couple of weeks left me exhausted and winded for what seemed like months. I was shocked at how debilitated I was. And as I gradually regained my strength, I gradually did more and returned to my former level of fitness. I didn’t need a rehabilitation program, other than some initial reassurance from my doctor that what I was experiencing was well within the parameters of a normal recovery.

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