How Physical Therapy Can Help Post-COVID Recovery – Introducing the PACER Program

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As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the country, most are concerned with avoiding the virus or making it through the contagious period in good health. While many individuals recovery quickly from the virus with no lasting side-effects, some who contract COVID-19 sustain significant impairments in muscle strength and incur cardiovascular issues, pain and weakness that do not allow them to bounce back to daily life as quickly.

These significant impairments impact an individual’s ability to manage normal day-to-day activities. Walking, balance, endurance and even the simple act of breathing can become difficult. These changes in health create the need for skilled physical and occupational therapists to help get these individuals back to their full strength.

With the specific needs of post-COVID individuals in mind, the Post-Acute COVID-19 Exercise and Rehabilitation (PACER) program was created.

Who can the PACER program benefit?

The PACER program was created to assist individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 regain their normal lives. Our skilled physical and occupational therapists have undergone specific training from the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) in order to care for post-COVID patients.

Those individuals who have had COVID-19 and are most in need of physical therapy care via the PACER program include those who are elderly or those who possess chronic health issues, such as diabetes, COPD, hypertension and coronary heart disease.

Long haulers, or individuals who experience novel COVID-19 symptoms for weeks or months after recovering from the worst impacts of the virus and have tested negative, can also benefit from the PACER program. Researchers estimate that about 10 percent of COVID-19 patients become long haulers, which can include any aged individual who tests positive for the virus.

Post-COVID individuals often incur one or more of the below issues after contracting COVID-19:

  • Significant loss of muscle strength
  • Reduced pulmonary function and aerobic conditioning
  • Pain
  • Reduced ability to perform activities of daily life
  • Reduced endurance to stand and walk
  • Reduced stability causing decreased balance and body awareness
  • Reduced flexibility

What is the PACER program?

The PRN PACER program is comprised of three main treatment areas: manual therapy, exercise training and Personalized Blood Flow Restriction Training (PBFRT). These elements help build up an individual’s endurance and strength in order to get them back to feeling like themselves again.

Once a post-COVID individual can enter the program, they may come into one of our clinics where the PACER program is offered. Our therapists will begin the program with an individualized evaluation and assess the individual’s function and abilities. From here, a personalized plan will be established to address each loss of function.

Manual therapy helps assist post-COVID individuals with mobility of the spine, chest and extremities. Meanwhile, exercise training will help improve overall body strength, respiratory issues and balance. Various exercise training that may be utilized includes:

  • Upper body strengthening
  • Lower body strengthening
  • Aerobic conditioning
  • Stretching
  • Respiratory exercises
  • Posture improvements
  • Balance and positional awareness

The third component of the PACER program is PBFRT, or Personalized Blood Flow Restriction Training. PBFRT allows post-COVID individuals to train at low loads with the gains of a high load activity and positively impacts the cardiovascular system.

Where to find the PACER program

The PACER program is a great option for individuals who have been significantly impacted by COVID-19. Not only does the program assist post-COVID individuals in understanding their condition and current state of their body, but our trusted physical therapists help develop a recovery program specific to each individual’s needs in order to restore function.

Currently, we have a variety of therapists who have undergone the PACER program training through the APTA. Each of our clinics below currently offer the PACER program. If you or someone you know could benefit from the PACER program, please reach out to one of the below PRN San Diego or California Rehabilitation & Sports Therapy locations to schedule an appointment.

*In order to be cleared for the PACER program, patients must pass the CDC guidelines for persons with COVID-19 under isolation or for persons who have not had COVID-19 symptoms but tested positive and are under isolation before entering the program.

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