Did you know that physical therapists can help you manage many long COVID symptoms?

Most people fully recover from COVID-19 with no long-term effects. However, roughly 10% of the population ends up with long COVID symptoms that linger for weeks to months down the line. Some of the most common long COVID symptoms include fatigue or weakness, body aches, shortness of breath, trouble concentrating, headache, muscle or joint pain, sleep problems, brain fog, fast or pounding heartbeat, and post-exertional malaise. Physical therapists can help to manage many long COVID symptoms and help return people to their previous levels of function.

What is a Longhauler?

Long haulers, those who had COVID previously and continue to deal with symptoms weeks and months later will benefit from working with a Physical Therapist. Physical activity has been shown to reduce the severity and adverse outcomes of COVID-19. Working with a Physical Therapist has many advantages, which include an individualized and specific treatment plan that addresses areas of need. In addition to individualized care, PTs can help you manage current symptoms, promote recovery, and help to rebuild confidence in doing everyday activities and work.

What can PT do to help?

Physical Therapy can help regain balance and stability, address cardiopulmonary issues, dizziness or vertigo, improve strength and endurance, promote functional mobility and activities of daily living issues, and address range of motion limitations and musculoskeletal pain.


One of the most common complaints we hear in the clinic when we discuss long COVID is the fatigue that occurs during and after the virus. In some cases, post-exertional malaise (PEM) is diagnosed in the patient. People report feeling exhausted after being up and moving for less than ten minutes, or report that eating a meal is exhausting and requires a rest afterward. Getting back to their normal routine can be a struggle. Working with a PT can help to gradually condition your body back to more normal activity, Your PT can create a gradual, staged approach, where careful, planned progression occurs slowly in all areas of conditioning.

Muscle Stiffness and Pain

Another area that occurs with long COVID is reduced activity from being laid up which can lead to increased muscle and joint stiffness along with pain. Hands-on manual therapy techniques can help to reduce muscle tightness. There are a handful of different techniques and approaches that PTs can use to help improve stiffness, one of the most common being gentle stretching.
For most, joint pain can be alleviated through movement. The more PT can help get you moving again, the more lubrication of the joints and less joint pain.

Shortness of Breath

Shortness of breath is another consistently noted symptom of long COVID. Respiratory specialized Physical Therapists can assess your current respiratory levels and assist with an individualized treatment plan to improve your lung function. PTs utilize different breathing tools and breathing exercises to reduce shortness of breath. For many, breathing exercises that target the diaphragm are prescribed to strengthen and improve the muscles that help you inhale and exhale fully.

Balance and Fall Prevention

There can also be significant muscle weakness and general deconditioning following COVID. These factors can contribute to increased fall risk and decreased activity tolerance. Physical therapy can help work on balance skills and gait training in a controlled, safe environment, reducing fall risk both inside and outside of the home. In addition to balance training, specific, targeted exercises can be prescribed to help address muscle weakness that can help improve balance and walking ability, along with walking endurance. The combination of balance and strength training significantly reduces fall risk and injury.

While not all long COVID symptoms are addressed in this blog, Physical Therapy is a great place to begin to get you back on your feet as quickly and safely as possible. Make your appointment today.

Physical Therapist at Freedom Physical Therapy Services
Molly Rittberg received her master’s degree in Physical Therapy in 2007 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and went on to receive her doctorate from Rosalind Franklin University (North Chicago) in 2009. She has since worked in an outpatient orthopedic practice where she worked with patients of all ages, injuries and disabilities. She has a wide variety of experiences including knee, ankle, foot and shoulder injuries, post-operative conditions, spinal rehabilitation and peripheral neuropathies.