Objective: Guidelines regarding physical therapy for COVID-19 patients are often based on expert opinion. Recent clinical trials have reported effects on several rehabilitation outcomes in COVID-19 patients. This review summarizes the effects of physical therapy in COVID-19 patients.
Data sources: PubMed, Web of Science and Scopus databases were systematically searched for studies investigating the effect of any physical therapy modality on impairments in adult COVID-19 patients. Included studies were (non)-randomized controlled trials, pre-experimental studies, and cohort studies in which a pre-post analysis was performed.
Data extraction: After the screening process, data of interest were extracted from eligible studies and their risk of bias was assessed. Included outcome measures were divided into 3 groups: pulmonary function, physical function, and psychosocial function.
Data synthesis: A total of 15 studies were included in this review. Physical therapy seems to have positive effects on pulmonary function, physical function, and psychosocial function. However, these effects differ between clinical settings (e.g. home care, intensive care unit, inpatient units). Due to the low-to-moderate quality of the included studies, no robust conclusions can be drawn.
Conclusion: Further high-quality research is required, taking into account the different clinical settings, in order to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of physical therapy on impairments in COVID-19 patients.