Rinku Parekh, a 44-year-old homemaker from Ahmedabad who got Covid-19 and was admitted to Dhanvantari Covid hospital for more than a month can now breathe normally and do small chores as well. She attributes her quick recovery to chest physiotherapy.
“I was in a critical condition when I was admitted on April 27. During the stay of over a month in the hospital, I was in the ICU for 17 days, of which was on BiPAP for over a week… Chest physiotherapy that started from day one helped me get back to room oxygen,” said Parekh.
Chest physiotherapy is emerging as one of the most popular post-Covid treatment measures, both at hospitals as well as private care, during the second wave of the pandemic where the variant is found to be majorly causing lung damage.
Pulmologists, along with physiotherapists, teach different breathing patterns, including diaphragmatic breathing, posterior basal, lateral costal and glossopharyngeal breathing exercises to Covid patients who were either on oxygen or ventilator support.
“With the new Covid variant in the second wave that has largely affected lungs, there is more requirement of chest physiotherapy. There are different types of exercises for lungs depending upon the severity of cases,” said Dr Sheela Amarsheda, a physiotherapist at the Covid ward of ESIC hospital in Bapunagar.
In May alone, she has treated more than 150 Covid patients, she says adding that people are now more aware about chest physiotherapy and its results as they themselves insist on learning and following the exercises to increase their lung capacity.
Rajesh Bhayani (33) from Junagadh who was admitted to GMERS Sola Civil Hospital on April 10 has already resumed his work in clinical research last week. “In my case, chest physiotherapy helped more than medicines… I am still continuing with it,” Bhayani said.
The Defence Research and Development Organisation’s (DRDO) Dhanvantari Covid Hospital in Ahmedabad has created a special ward for patients who recovered from Covid where where over 50 patients have been treated by a dedicated team of four physiotherapists.
The hospital’s post-Covid ward admits both in-house patients as well as others who require post-Covid recovery.
Hemantsinh Gadhavi, 62, who recently recovered from Covid at the Dhanvantari Covid Hospital for over 20 days was taken off oxygen support on May 30. In another case, Krunal Dulera, 37, from Ahmedabad who was also on oxygen support, was also admitted to the hospital’s post-Covid ward on May 25.
“Both have shown huge improvement. In addition to breathing exercises such as pranayam, they are taught incentive spirometry for increased lung volume. From today they are doing exertion too on room air… it was not possible earlier when they would get exhausted even after a short walk. With a daily 10 per cent improvement in the lung capacity, patients are discharged with 70-80 per cent improvement,” said Dr Bimal Modi, head of physiotherapy department at GMERS Gandhinagar, who is the additional medical superintendent at Dhanvantari Covid Hospital.
Dr Kiran Rami, pulmonologist at GMERS Sola Civil Hospital, said that all the Covid patients at the hospital are given chest physiotherapy this time. “Unlike last year when the focus was more on isolating patients, this time it is more on ICU patients and oxygen dependability.”
Among seven types of physiotherapy practises include postural drainage position for lung clearance along with with vibratory or clapping methods, he added.
Doctors are using chest physiotherapy even during Covid treatment, including when a patient is in the ICU. “Since last month, we have been using this technique on Covid patients in the ICU as well which was not the case last year. In ICU patients, chest muscles go into fatigue quickly and hence the duration and frequency of physiotherapy is not as much compared to other patients but it is being followed across all age groups,” added Dr Amarsheda.
Dr Madhav Goswami, physiotherapist at GMERS Sola Civil Hospital said the early a Covid patient starts practicing chest physiotherapy the early he will recover. “Scientific chest physiotherapy has come to the rescue of Covid patients this time and has gained popularity,” he said.