Before 2020, the term ‘Long-COVID’ did not exist. Now it is a term that unfortunately is getting more and more common.

What Is Long-COVID?

People who have been in acute hospital with COVID are coming out with a range of problems that require rehab, and there is now new evidence of need among people who were never admitted to hospital, recovering from what is being called Long COVID. 

At present, there is limited research about what Long-COVID is and a lot of information coming forward is from those suffering with it (anecdotal evidence) .

The below information has been taken from the Office For National Statistics; 6th January 2022:

  • An estimated 1.3 million people living in private households in the UK (2.0% of the population) were experiencing self-reported long COVID.
  • Of people with self-reported long COVID, 270,000 (21%) first had (or suspected they had) COVID-19 less than 12 weeks previously; 892,000 people (70%) first had (or suspected they had) COVID-19 at least 12 weeks previously, and 506,000 (40%) first had (or suspected they had) COVID-19 at least one year previously.
  • The proportion of people with self-reported long COVID who reported that it reduced their ability to carry out daily activities remained stable compared with previous months; symptoms adversely affected the day-to-day activities of 809,000 people (64% of those with self-reported long COVID), with 247,000 (20%) reporting that their ability to undertake their day-to-day activities had been “limited a lot”.
  • Fatigue continued to be the most common symptom reported as part of individuals’ experience of long COVID.
  • As a proportion of the UK population, prevalence of self-reported long COVID was greatest in people aged 35 to 69 years, females, people living in more deprived areas, those working in health care, social care, or teaching and education (which saw the biggest month-on-month increase out of all employment sectors), and those with another activity-limiting health condition or disability.


Evidence shows that many of those with Long-COVID are presenting with some of the following health problems:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Tiredness /fatigue
  • Reduced muscle function
  • Joint pain
  • Impaired ability to perform everyday tasks
  • Mental health problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression
  • Body pain
  • High temperatures
  • Headaches
  • Palpitations

In December 2020, NICE, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN) have published a guideline on the management of the long-term effects of COVID-19

The guideline makes recommendations in a number of other areas including rehabilitation.

Physiotherapy is vital to the management process. We can:

  • Assess the individual problems you are presenting with whether it be at home, when your outdoors or at work
  • Formulate a personalised management plan
  • Aid recovery with fatigue management / breathlessness management / breathing dysfunction management / management of any chest secretions
  • Screen for Post Exertional Malaise (PME)
  • Anxiety management
  • Find ways to support your function and daily activities.

NOTE: The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) cautions against using graded exercise therapy for people recovering from COVID-19. Graded exercise therapy (GET) is a structured exercise programme that increases the amount of physical exertion a person performs over time. The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) removed graded exercise therapy from the updated ME/CFS guideline. The Workwell Foundation opposes GET in ME/CFS. https://longcovid.physio/exercise

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