Modified rehabilitation exercises for mild cases of COVID-19

Ann Palliat Med. 2020 Aug 10;apm-20-753. doi: 10.21037/apm-20-753. Online ahead of print.


Background: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by a new Betacoronavirus severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is currently a global pandemic. Gathered clinicopathological evidence in COVID-19 patients shows that alveoli injuries and interstitial changes are the major mechanisms of impaired O2/CO2 exchange. Few rehabilitation exercises concerning COVID-19 patients were reported. Here, we present a modified version of rehabilitation exercises based on the underlying mechanism of the disease to mild cases of COVID-19. These exercises aimed to improve the pulmonary function of patients and ease the expectoration process. Additionally, an essential branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) named acupressure was integrated into the exercises to facilitate the recovery and maintenance of pulmonary function.

Methods: From March 4, 2020 to May 5, 2020, a total of 60 COVID-19 patients who completed the full course of MRE were enrolled in this observational study. The diagnostic and classification criteria were based on the 7th edition of Diagnosis and Treatment Guideline of COVID-19 published by the National Health Commission of the People's Republic of China. We prospectively gathered patients' reported outcomes concerning respiration-related symptoms at four different time points, including: (I) at admission; (II) at the time of hospital discharge; (III) two weeks after discharge; (IV) four weeks after discharge. The reported respiratory symptoms included dry cough, productive cough, difficulty in expectoration, and dyspnea.

Results: In total, 60 confirmed mild COVID-19 cases were enrolled with a median age of 54 years old. The baseline prevalence for dry cough, productive cough, difficulty in expectoration, and dyspnea were 41.7%, 43.3%, 35.0%, and 50.0%, respectively. The pronounced decline in symptom prevalence was recorded over time. Interestingly, four weeks after discharge, we noticed a lower remission rate in productive cough and difficulty in expectoration.

Conclusions: The modified rehabilitation exercises were retrieved from the Eight-Section Brocade, and are specifically designed for rehabilitation of COVID-19 patients at home or health facilities. Based on current findings on pronouncedly improved remission rate in respiratory symptoms, we recommend the MRE as suitable rehabilitation exercise to smooth respiration and ease the expectoration process in mild COVID-19 cases.

Keywords: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); exercise therapy; rehabilitation; severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).