Speech Therapy Rehabilitation after COVID

January 12, 2021
Speech Therapy Rehabilitation after COVID

We've all been living in a different world since the winter of 2019 when COVID-19 abruptly began to change the way we approach our jobs, family life, and most aspects of our social interactions in day-to-day routines. Earlier this year, we started to learn that this virus was different than any other we'd ever experienced. 

The virus alters certain functions such as cognitive, swallowing, and respiratory behavior, even after a person recovers from it. We'll cover how speech therapy can help correct these changes in this blog post.

Cognitive Changes After COVID

Scientists and medical professionals rapidly predicted many of the pulmonary complications highly associated with this novel disease. Still, steadily more recognition is being given to its impact on the brain and other body systems we rely on every day. Physicians and researchers tracking cases at John's Hopkins Medicine Center and other such centers worldwide see decreased cognition, weakened voice, and impaired swallowing in patients recovering from more severe cases of the disease.

Specifically, patients demonstrate decreased ability to focus, reduced recall of new information, and slowed reaction time. This is likely due to the lack of oxygen available to the patient's brains as COVID directly impacts lung function. It can also result from a high number of COVID patients who experience stroke, seizure, and encephalitis during their COVID-related illness.

Swallowing Changes After COVID

Patients who required intubation and ventilation while having the virus are reporting changes in communication and swallowing. This change makes sense, as the tubing used to deliver oxygen to the lungs during ventilation goes between the vocal cords, which may later affect the person's ability to make a voice while speaking and protect the airway during swallowing.

Speech Therapy for Respiratory Changes After COVID

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. 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

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.