Speech Therapy Helps Long COVID

January 13, 2024
Speech Therapy Helps Long COVID

COVID-19  rocked the word in the winter of 2019 triggering abrupt changes in the way we approached our jobs, family life, and our social interactions in day-to-day routines.   We discovered this virus was different than any other we'd experienced.  It is still with us today and most who get it recover within weeks.  But some have symptoms that last a long time.  Some don't ever go completely away - no matter if they had mild symptoms.


Symptoms that continue, return or appear more than four weeks after getting COVID are the halmark of long COVID (post-COVID syndrome).  In some people, long COVID lasts for months or years.  For some, it causes permanent  disability. So what can you do if you have persistant symptoms? Here are the top 3 symptoms from long COVID and how speech therapy helps:

Speech Therapy Helps Long COVID Cognitive Changes


Brain fog, loss of concentration, or memory issues are common cognitive changes from long COVID.  Other sympmtoms include feeling confused, thinking more slowly than usual, fuzzy thoughts, forgetfulness, difficulty coming up with words and mental fatigue.

Speech therapy helps long COVID cognitive changes by identifying exactly what are your cognitive strengths and weaknesses.  Once your goals are identified, your therapist will work with you to develop a treatment plan to target your weaknesses.  Your plan might include learning strategies for organizing your thoughts and remembering new information. Or you may be given specific exercises to increase your speed of processing and reaction time.

Speech Therapy Helps Long COVID Voice & Swallowing Changes 

Some people with long COVID have problems with swallowing, eating, drinking and talking.  Some report a sore throat or a cough that does not go away.  Others feel like they need to clear their throat. These changes can happen when long COVID interferes with the normal coordination of breathing and swallowing. 

When you eat and drink you automatically hold your breath for a moment so that you do not choke. Long COVID can casue you to be breathless when you eat and drink or make it hard to hold your breath when you swallow.  This can result in coughing when you swallow.

Speech therapy helps long COVID voice and swallowing changes by identifying problems and developing a treatment plan to deal with them.  Your therapist will complete a swallow and vocal cord assessment  to determine how the vocal cords and swallow structure are functioning.  A Flexible Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing (FEES)  may be one of the assessments your therapist uses.  This involves threading a small camera down your throat to look at how the vocal cords and swallow structures are functioning.  Strengthening exercises or Synchrony Dysphagia Treatment may be given if weakness is identified.

Speech Therapy Helps Long COVID Respiratory Changes 

 Respiratory Muscle Strength Training (RMST) uses resistance to strengthen the muscles used for breathing in the same way resistance training strengthens skeletal muscles. 

RMST with your speech-language pathologist specifically strengthens the muscles used for breathing. After doing this training, patients may notice the following:

  • improved cognitive function through increased oxygenation to the brain
  • maximized respiratory muscle strength leading to better overall endurance
  • a stronger voice for communication
  • safer swallowing 
  • a more vigorous cough to clear the airway

Used in conjunction with traditional cognitive-communicative and swallowing therapies, RMST demonstrates excellent returns in function and quality of life for those who have already endured so much.

Speech Therapy at Therapy Achievements

Speech-language pathologists are professionals specifically trained to help rehabilitate communication, thinking, and swallowing skills when illness or injury brings on changes in any of those skills.  Because of this, they are particularily well equiped to help you deal with symptoms from long COVID.  If you or someone you love has experienced any of the challenges discussed, please contact us. At Therapy Achievements, we are honored to bring well-researched approaches, knowledge, and hope to your rehabilitation journey.