Physical Therapy and COVID-19
Original Publication – April 2020
Like many of you, our team at Active Physical Therapy Solutions PC here in Auburn, NY, continues to closely monitor the ever-changing landscape during the COVID-19 outbreak in the Finger Lakes Region as it relates to our day-to-day operations and our local community. The future course of COVID-19 is impossible to predict accurately, and we are acutely aware that our choices and actions today must be made with clarity and with your safety and health in mind. Most physical therapy clinics in the region have remained open and available to provide services to patients in pain or continue their recovery from pre-outbreak surgeries. We continue to use a combination of guidelines from the CDC and the American Physical Therapy Association regarding patient care in outpatient practices during Wuhan Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
The APTA “encourages physical therapists to use their professional judgment to determine when, where, and how to provide care”. Patient care has always been specific to the individual, with the physical therapist assessing a person’s needs relative to their goals. Thus, physical therapists have a responsibility to review CDC guidance, to understand who is at highest risk and how to best reduce exposure, and to use their professional judgment in the best interests of their patients and their local communities. This includes advising patients that are in the high risk populations for contracting COVID-19 to remain home in self quarantine, if that is the best option, or developing other options when the risk of exposure to COVID-19 outweighs the benefits of immediate treatment.
According to the CDC website reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death for confirmed COVID-19 cases. Common symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure (based on the incubation period). Symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. It is recommended that patients seek medical attention if and when they develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19: trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion, are difficult to arouse, and/or bluish lips or face.
Outpatient clinics may add the following restrictions and recommendations regarding daily operating procedures in order to improve social distancing, while still being able to provide quality patient care to those seeking it:
- If you are a patient that typically receives a ride or attends your appointments with a friend, family member, or loved one, we request that your companion wait in the car or return after your appointment to pick you up. We have also distanced the chairs in our waiting room, and are disinfecting them regularly.
- If you have a known health issue that results in immunosuppression, makes you immune-compromised, or if you live with someone that is immune-compromised, you should stay home. Older adults and people who have severe underlying medical conditions like heart disease, lung disease (including chronic asthma), kidney disease, liver disease, diabetes, and obesity (BMI >40) seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 and should remain home.
- In order to maintain social distancing, we are also scheduling ALL patients in 30-minute time slots. This will reduce the number patients in the clinic at any one time, thus reducing exposures. We are also distancing patients on treatment tables in the clinic.
The CDC recommends the following simple tips to help reduce the spread and flatten the curve of COVID-19:
- Cover your mouth and nosewith a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow. When finished, throw the used tissues in the trash. Be sure to empty your trash daily and disinfect the trash can.
- Frequently wash your handswith soap and water for at least 20 seconds (typically singing the Happy Birthday song twice or reciting the alphabet). If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a disinfecting hand sanitizer that contains a minimum of 60% alcohol.
- If you are sick or symptomatic, you should wear a facemask when you are around other people (e.g., sharing a room or vehicle) and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office. If you are not able to wear a facemask (for example, because it causes trouble breathing), then you should do your best to cover your coughs and sneezes, and people who are caring for you should wear a facemask if they enter your room.
- If you are NOT sick, you do not need to wear a facemask unless you are caring for someone who is sick (and they are not able to wear a facemask). Facemasks may be in short supply and they should be reserved for caregivers or healthcare providers.
Use these simple tips to help keep the numbers of COVID-19 case low in Cayuga County and remember if you are in pain, call a physical therapy clinic to see if you can receive physical therapy treatment during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Dr. Buchberger is a licensed chiropractor, physical therapist and certified strength and conditioning specialist with 31 years of clinical sports injury experience. Dr. Buchberger can be contacted at 315-515-3117 or www.activeptsolutions.com.