Electrical Muscle Stimulation as a Method of Recovery after COVID

Electroestimulación y covid

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COVID disease has caused (and continues to cause) a great deal of bewilderment, not only in the general population, but also in health and science experts.

Each infected individual presents a highly variable and disparate set of symptoms, which makes it difficult to identify this disease if it were not (of course) for PCR tests.

The disease ranges from asymptomatic cases and people with mild symptoms, to seriously ill patients admitted to the ICU. It’s definitely a head-scratcher, right?

Yes, the combinations of symptoms are endless, some better and others worse, but what we are going to discuss in this post is another aspect of the disease: the consequences that COVID disease may leave on your body and how to recover with a little extra help or push.

Generally, asymptomatic individuals or those with mild COVID symptoms recover naturally and usually don’t suffer from any long-term effects. But, according to a study conducted by the San Pablo CEU University of Madrid, between 5 and 10% of those infected with COVID suffer from some residual symptoms over four weeks after infection.

Many experts describe a kind of generalized “chronic fatigue syndrome” that affects many people on a daily basis, despite having recovered from this disease (at least apparently) and this chronic fatigue is even more pronounced when consider physical activity.

Coronavirus Symptoms

COVID-19 may attack an individual in many ways depending on their age, gender, habits, and lifestyles, or pre-existing conditions. Although most of the infected recover without the need for hospitalization, there are several symptoms that can be very worrisome and aggravate the patient’s condition. And so, we can put coronavirus symptoms in one out of 3 categories.

Common SymptomsLess Common SymptomsSevere Symptoms
Fever
Dry cough
Tiredness
Aches and pains
Sore throat
Diarrhea
Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
Headache
Loss of smell
Loss of taste
Skin rashes
Difficulty breathing
Chest pain or pressure
Inability to speak
Inability to move 

People who are infected may have symptoms within 5 days of becoming infected, although it may take up to 14 days or so.

In any case, whether you’re experiencing COVID symptoms or not, if you think you may be a carrier of the virus, health authorities recommend staying home and quarantining for 10 to 14 days.

Symptoms after COVID

Recovering from COVID does not mean the disease ends there, although I wish we could say otherwise. Pedro Manonelles Marqueta, president of the Spanish Society of Sports Medicine and director of the International Chair of Sports Medicine at the San Antonio de Murcia Catholic University, states that many of those affected by COVID present, after their “recovery”, difficulties moving, as well as respiratory and cardiac problems, among others. The number of people that experience these problems after COVID rises to 30%.

After a coronavirus infection, we may have the so-called post-viral fatigue syndrome. It may manifest as excessive fatigue during daily activities, fitful sleep, lack of concentration or memory loss.

This excessive fatigue and tiredness may prevent these individuals from carrying out basic day-to-day activities, like getting out of bed or going out for a walk, since they are extremely exhausted.

Although this virus is new, there is a clear common sense shared by specialists, and that is that the benefits of practicing physical activity are amply evidenced by science, either in terms of physical or mental health.

Post-COVID Recovery Exercises

As we have already mentioned, after a period of confinement and inactivity, it’s essential that you resume your daily physical activity.

If you’ve had respiratory failure, for example, the respiratory muscles should be exercised, if you have muscle atrophy, start a strength training program; and if there are issues with resistance, you’ll have to do cardio or aerobic exercises.

This is why it’s more necessary than ever to make time for physical activity in your post-COVID recovery, and gradually return to normality and avoid future injuries or the fatigue derived from the disease, as well as combat the sedentary lifestyle caused by the coronavirus.

With this premise, you must gradually introduce some fundamental exercise routines to strengthen your airways and muscles, which are the most affected parts after suffering from coronavirus.

Before taking up an exercise routine once again, make sure you have stopped experiencing the most pronounced symptoms of COVID (although you’ll probably have some residual symptoms, you should have stopped experiencing the most “severe”.

You should not expect to be at 100% on the first day after a long period of inactivity. The goal of these exercises is to oxygenate the body in a gentle and leisurely way, without generating apneas or wanting to go too fast. Relax, little by little, you’ll be able to increase the intensity and duration of the exercises.

Let’s take a look at some recommended exercises for each case.

Breathing exercises

As you already know, pneumonia is one of the main effects of the coronavirus. It’s important to recover your lung health through respiratory physical therapy.

If you make a correct recovery of your breathing, not only will dyspnea (difficulty breathing) decrease, but you will also be able to more easily perform strength and resistance exercises; and you will improve thoracic mobility: everything is linked.

We must remember what science tells us about doing sports (30-60 minutes/day, 3-5 days a week at 60-80% of maximum capacity). It decreases the risk of respiratory tract infection, while with little physical activity, there is a higher risk of infection.

Let’s take a look at some different breathing exercises.

Normal breathing

To strengthen the vitality of the body and mind, and help our entire body function properly, it’s important to control your breathing rhythm. It is said that learning to breathe properly is also learning to live properly.

Diaphragmatic or abdominal breathing

The diaphragm is the muscle that separates the chest from the abdominal cavity. It tenses when we inhale; that’s why exercises with deeper breaths help to strengthen this muscle.

To take a diaphragm breath, place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly (the hand on the chest should not move, and the hand on top of your belly should

rise and fall when you breathe). Next, inhale through your nose allowing your belly to rise as air enters your lungs. Then exhale through your mouth for 3-5 seconds making your belly sink as the air comes out.

And that’s all there is to it! Repeat these two steps until your body feels more relaxed.

Chest or lung breathing

Chest or lung breathing is carried out with the muscles of the ribs.

The movement consists of separating the ribs and expanding the rib cage, filling

the lungs with air. Compared to diaphragmatic breathing, in chest breathing, there is a greater resistance to the entry of air.

To practice this type of breathing, it’s recommended that you are seated. Keep your abdominal waist contracted while you breathe in. To become more aware of this type of breathing, try placing your hands on either side of your rib cage. You will notice that when you breathe in and out, your hands will follow the movements.

Mobility exercises

In addition to respiratory effects, as we have already mentioned, we find muscle atrophy, and loss of strength and joint mobility of the extremities and trunk, and it’s important to do muscle exercises to regain this important point of mobility.

Try stretching. Yoga or Pilates are perfect disciplines to begin to regain your mobility, and you can also try stretching with electrical muscle stimulation for greater flexibility while you strengthen.

Muscle exercises

After the phases of respiratory recovery and mobility exercises, your training continues with a very important and key phase in your recovery: strengthening your muscles.

This phase of muscle strengthening involves more complex movements and of different (but moderate) intensity. We go from doing postural exercises like yoga or Pilates, to running, doing side steps, shuffling and bodyweight exercise circuits, etc.

But as we’ve said before, this very gradual approach can be frustrating, especially for those who were already active before COVID, and this is where electrical muscle stimulation comes in as a key factor.

Effective COVID Recovery with EMS Training

As we have mentioned, COVID-19 has caused a great deal of damage worldwide, since it’s a virus that causes multi-organ damage, especially at the respiratory and cardiovascular levels. Many people who contracted the virus have suffered from respiratory failure, and after having spent some time inactive, muscle strength and mass are lost.

Once the disease is gone, patients usually have episodes of weakness and are unable to perform very intense activities. This is why the return to exercise and physical activity should be gradual, even more so after a long period of inactivity, and even more so if you’ve suffered the worst of this disease. 

Therefore, in your rehabilitation, it’s essential to complete a training program to completely recover from the virus and return to normality. Here, EMS can play a very interesting role in achieving positive results in less time and in a more attractive way for patients, and this is where electrostimulation training comes into play.

Jon’s case, post-COVID recovery with WB-EMS

Jon suffered from coronavirus with very characteristic symptoms of the disease, such as loss of smell and pain throughout the body. Even though he was an athlete, he had to go 20 days without exercising or doing any type of physical activity in order to overcome the virus.

At the end of the recommended quarantine, and ready to resume his physical activity, he noticed that he was unable to complete a weekly training program.

Because Jon had been in such great shape before suffering from the disease, his inability to complete his weekly workouts was perceived as a huge drop in his physical condition. For this reason, Jon chose to use our Wiemspro electrical muscle stimulation system and, in a few weeks, he noticed significant improvement in both strength and cardiovascular level; which shows that our EMS system can be an effective alternative when overcoming the effects of COVID.

Advantages of electrostimulation training after COVID

Do electrostimulation devices really work? Yes, but not in isolation. Electrical muscle stimulators are effective as long as they accompany your regular training. The only difference is that you will need less training time to achieve more visible and optimal results than a conventional training program without electrostimulation.

Here are some of the benefits of electrostimulation that we have obtained with patients like Jon, who have used electrical muscle stimulation to recover from COVID.

Improvements after a training program with WB-EMS

  • Improved strength.
  • Improvement of cardiorespiratory capacity, enhancement of aerobic and anaerobic endurance.
  • Improved muscle hypertrophy.
  • Improvement of overall weakness.
  • Improved sleep.
  • Improved regulation of daily stress.

Electrostimulation is the perfect way to promote the recovery of movement or functional capacity

Electrical muscle stimulation uses the electrical current sent by the electrodes located in our electrostimulation suit. This current simulates the impulses sent by the nervous system, in order to generate a muscle contraction in the most natural way.

To promote optimal recovery, it’s important for the exercise of the muscles to take a leading role. As you already know, electrostimulation is well known in sports medicine, and its main function is to stimulate the muscles after long-term injuries and to keep the injured part of your body (let’s say, your leg) from being completely inactive for a long time. In this way, we avoid the loss of muscle mass with the help of electrostimulation.

Conclusion

Playing sports is never a bad thing, and this is something we heard throughout 2020 on television, newspapers, and other media: an athlete would be less affected by the symptoms of COVID and would develop a more satisfactory and faster recovery than a person who does not exercise.

But sport and physical activity is not only good for recovering from this disease, in fact, there is scientific evidence that strength and muscle mass training is beneficial for many other pathologies, such as obesity, diabetes, chronic fatigue, or metabolic syndrome.

So, if you were physically inactive before suffering from the coronavirus, now is a good time to start playing sports!

And remember that not only doing sports is good. Accompanying your exercises with movements or other simple and everyday physical activities, such as climbing stairs or loading a washing machine, is key to your health. Avoid long periods of sitting and move around a bit!

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