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Long COVID: How Steriods & Bed Rest Can Weaken Your Bones

Long COVID has been described as the effects of COVID-19 that continue for weeks or months beyond the initial illness. These could be respiratory, such as a cough and feeling breathless, but also include fatigue and headaches. They could also be symptoms that affect many parts of the body, including the heart, brain, and gut.

There is more. Prolonged steroid use and bed rest can also damage the bones.

“Prolonged illnesses and weeks of compulsory bed rest tend to impact all systems of the body, one of these areas being the musculoskeletal system. Symptoms such as fatigue, myalgia (muscle aches and pain), and arthralgia (multiple joint pain with stiffness) are common after Covid-19, and their prevalence is now increasing,” said Dr Debashish Chanda from the department of orthopaedics at Gurgaon’s CK Birla Hospital, in an interview with News18.

While an extended period of bed rest can cause bones and muscles to weaken, recovery can take a long time after a severe illness like COVID-19. “It takes at least six weeks or more to regain muscle strength after extended periods of immobility,” he was quoted as saying.

According to Dr Chanda, patients who have been hospitalised because of COVID-19 or who have been prescribed bed rest at home might find it hard to even stand, walk, or be active. The use of steroids in the treatment of COVID can also cause problems. “Though a short course of 10-15 days steroids don’t cause any issues, many of the patients were on long-term steroid therapy may be at higher risk of osteoporosis and increased joint arthritis,” the doctor told News18 adding that, “post-Covid physical rehabilitation therapy can help people who experienced decreased mobility associated with more extended bed rest.”

“This can help people regain strength, increase flexibility, and restore independence. As muscle starts to respond to the added stress of activity, it begins to build more fibres and use more oxygen. Simple activities to build strength, increase balance, and flexibility can be done, such as yoga, walking inside and outside the home, strengthening and stamina training-also help. Regular intake of vitamins like D3 & B12 also aids in strengthening muscles and bones,” Dr Chanda told News18.

He suggested some home remedies too. Turmeric milk, desi ghee, a high protein diet and garlic help joint lubrication and strengthening. “Some over-the-counter medications like glucosamine, curcumin (turmeric extracts) also help, but it is advised to consult a doctor about it,” he was quoted as saying.