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Chronic Pain, Fatigue, Sleep and Coronavirus- What we know and what we can do about it.

 

We still do not have enough tests for Coronavirus, although this is improving. Many of us may even have had it and not know it. Others will be worried about catching it and scan themselves regularly and worry about every twitch, ache or pain.

If you have had Coronavirus it is very possible that you will suffer from fatigue as you recover. We still do not fully understand why this happens, but there is growing evidence from patients that it is real. 

NBC news in America reported on this and it does seem to be common. People recovering for the virus are describing the same sort of things. https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/fever-fatigue-fear-some-recovering-covid-19-patients-weeks-illness-n1197806

Many people feel they are on the mend and then will suddenly be hit by a wave of fatigue. Some people report feeling tired and numb but if they are scanned show no signs of the virus returning or any other infections. 

Most people, across the world who have had the virus have not been hospitalised. In one sense this is very good. Although the virus can be deadly, most people fight it off and return to normal life. On the other hand, it can leave people finding it hard to make sense of what has happened to them. 

After Coronavirus 

The aftermath of the illness can take a toll. Many recovering patients feel scared, isolated and traumatised. This is made worse by the lockdown, which can increase feelings of isolation and worry because of a lack of support. People can feel abandoned; as if they have been left to fight the battle against this horrible disease on their own. 

Because of this, many doctors are checking on patients by telephone or Skype to make sure they do not deteriorate and also to give them confidence.

It is important that you keep in contact with your medical team. If you start suffering shortness of breath call emergency services as this could be serious. 

Patterns of fatigue

Fatigue is usually described as a decrease in, or lack of, energy. It is a normal response to things such as illness, stress, busy lifestyle and sleeping difficulties.

Fatigue can be physical or mental (or both). This means you might not be able to do some of the physical activity as you would usually be able to do, and/or you may find activities which require quick thinking or longer periods of concentration harder.

Fatigue is a subjective symptom. This means that everyone experiences it differently and may have various factors involved in their fatigue, a bit like the different factors than can influence a person’s pain.

Many patients with chronic pain experience fatigue alongside their pain symptoms. Although fatigue is not usually a sign of anything serious, it can be a very disruptive symptom, impacting upon how you feel and

your everyday activities. Therefore, it should not be ignored but should be managed alongside your pain symptoms too.

One thing which is noticeable for many patients recovering from coronavirus is that they feel worse as the day progresses. Some describe feeling a brain fog, with lack of concentration by the afternoon. 

If you have had the virus your body will have taken a battering. You may still be feeling pain, muscle aches in particular. You might want to try some targeted strategies to take your mind off the pain and reduce your levels of fatigue. Not only will this lessen your perception of pain and fatigue, it will also lessen your stress and worry about the pain and fatigue. For help to break this vicious cycle, you might like to try https://www.apaininthemind.co.uk/fighting-fatigue/

Difficulty with sleeping after Coronavirus

Finding it difficult to sleep is a commonly reported after-effect of Coronavirus. It is difficult to know at this stage whether the causes are physical or a result of the trauma and stress of the illness. Many people have reported night sweats, for example. It may help to know that people who report these test negative for a return of the virus. But it is still frightening and distressing. At its worst it can cause panic attacks. Even if it is not quite that serious it still means that you are exhausted at the time you need all your energy to recover well. 

Sleep is very important to our immune function and our general health. Here is a checklist of things which may help. 

  • Go to bed at the same time
  • Keep computer and phone screens out of the bedroom
  • Use relaxation techniques before bed
  • Prepare for sleep by having a wind-down routine for the last hour you are up. 
  • Try not to drink alcohol on a regular basis as it will upset your sleep patterns. 

Looking after your mental health

This is so important in the time of Coronavirus. We still know so little about the illness and we all fear the unknown. Also, we know that the illness can take a turn for the worse a week or so in, so it is natural to worry and sensible to be vigilant. 

But being vigilant can easily slip into stress and panic which does you no good at all. More than any other time, we now all need to pay attention to out mental health and wellbeing. This is not an extra or a luxury, remember that your mental state can affect how you respond physically. Keeping healthy involves both your mind and your body. 

Many people have found social media a help at this time. Sharing how you feel with others who have had the illness can reassure you that you are not ‘going crazy’ or making a fuss.

Although we are still learning about this virus, we know post viral fatigue is a common symptom when recovering from many types of virus and we have some idea as to what we can do about it. The New Scientist has reported that it is likely that coronavirus will lead to post viral syndromes https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg24632783-400-could-the-coronavirus-trigger-post-viral-fatigue-syndromes/

What to do if you think you have post viral fatigue after Coronavirus

If you think you are suffering from post-viral syndrome consult your doctor, there are tests which can help identify it. Unfortunately, there is no quick cure.

There are things you can do though. Perhaps the most difficult, but the most important, thing is to be patient. Do not be too tough on yourself and do not expect to bounce back too quickly. 

Notice your patterns

You may notice you have strong patterns throughout the day, with your best time in the morning for example. If this is the case then plan activity around your best times and rest when you are feeling weaker. Many people find it helpful to keep a diary of their ups and downs so they can determine patterns. 

A regular routine for calm

Try to ensure you keep your stress levels under control. I would advise that you develop a regular routine for calm. Use this all the time, not just when you are feeling bad, it will help to protect you. Try self-hypnosis, positive visualisation or gentle meditation. You can find some more help about this on this site. 

Eat well

Make sure you eat well, remember your body is still recovering, stick to fresh light foods, which you can cook without a huge effort and which are easy for your body to digest. 

Get a good sleep routine

You may find it difficult to sleep, but a good sleep routine is invaluable. It is probably the most important thing you can do. Please go to my book Sleeping with Pain to get some tips on how to build a good sleep routine. 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sleeping-Pain-Strategies-restful-management/dp/0995459924/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=sue%20peacock&qid=1570776717&sr=8-1&fbclid=IwAR1ZHKmz1FP8oz3NrtS3-i5wmUf_96FpcyHwjnWnL8hxlrfBsSMqeTt26ng

Exercise but keep it gentle

Try to exercise outside if you can. Not only will this help your system strengthen, it will also aid your mental health. But do not push yourself too hard. A gentle walk, in natural surroundings if possible, is the ideal to aim for. 

Get well safely

Remember, if you have had the virus, you have fought off a very serious illness. Take your time getting well and back to full health. Do not push yourself too hard and be prepared to have good and bad days. I wish you good fortune.

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