Occupational therapists lead an urgent global search for ‘long COVID’ rehabilitation evidence.

on Thursday, 17 September 2020. Posted in News, Blog

Occupational therapists lead an urgent global search for ‘long COVID’ rehabilitation evidence.

The World Federation of Occupational Therapists has linked arms with global researchers in an urgent hunt for evidence of effective rehabilitation of ‘long Covid’ sufferers.

Demand is surging for occupational therapists amid rising numbers of coronavirus survivors suffering long-term symptoms, dubbed ‘long Covid’ or post-Covid syndrome.

New evidence suggests around 10 per cent of people contracting the virus suffer symptoms for a prolonged period of weeks. [1]

While data from the COVID Symptom Study app, which is monitoring the spread of the virus in the UK, suggests up to 60,000 people have had symptoms for more than three months. [2]

Now, with the WFOT, international research charity, Cochrane Rehab has launched REH-COVER, the Rehabilitation COVID-19 Evidence-based Response, to gather study results from around the world as they emerge via a living map. [3]

Occupational therapists are being urged to stay updated with REH-COVER’s monthly systematic reviews as they are published every month.

The Royal College of Occupational Therapist’s ‘Quick guide for occupational therapists: Rehabilitation for people recovering from COVID-19’ [4] lists some of the symptoms likely to be encountered:




  • Reduced wakefulness
  • Impaired consciousness
  • Ongoing delirium
  • Poor concentration




  • Agitation, pacing and ‘wool picking’
  • Disorientation
  • Executive dysfunction
  • Impulsivity
  • Disinhibition
  • Impaired memory




  • Fear
  • Loss of dignity and control
  • Anxiety, panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Grief
  • Relapse of existing mental health conditions
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)




  • Post intubation swallowing and feeding needs
  • Speech difficulties (dysarthria and dysphasia)
  • Difficulty using alternative communication aids due to other impairments




  • Overwhelming fatigue
  • Global muscle weakness
  • Pain and discomfort
  • Changes to vision, and sight loss
  • Neuropathy
  • Reduced range of movement in upper limb




  • Breathlessness
  • Limited exercise tolerance
  • Postural hypotension
  • Dysfunctional breathing patterns
  • Continued cardiac issues


A recent report in the British Medical Journal [1] underlined the need for ‘personalised support’ of long Covid sufferers with input from a multi-professional team, including occupational therapists and other rehabilitation experts.

It cited one study that showed physical symptoms were adding to the psychosocial impact on sufferers’ lives by disrupting access to:


  • Core personal routines, such as walking to the shops
  • Health care
  • Social interactions
  • Lay and professional support networks


The Government and NHS England have launched a website offering support for anyone recovering from Covid-19. Find it here: www.yourcovidrecovery.nhs.UK

Aid Covid-19 research by taking part in the COVID Symptom Study here: covid.joinzoe.com


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[1]BMJ, “Management of post-acute covid-19 in primary care,” BMJ, 2020.

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/sep/08/60000-may-have-long-covid-for-more-than-three-months-uk-study

[3] wfot.org/news/2020/cochrane-rehabilitation-covid-19-evidence-based-response

[4] https://www.rcot.co.uk/files/guidance-quick-guide-occupational-therapists-rehabilitation-people-recovering-covid-19-2020


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