Successfully treating Long-Covid

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By Sam Kankanamge, Osteopath & Founder of Wimpole Street’s Sen Wellness Clinic.

 

Over the last 12 months, I have successfully treated some 55 patients, aged between 20 and 70, who were suffering from the symptoms of Long-COVID.

In order to treat each patient to the best of my ability, I have consistently kept an eye on the latest medical research and news. Whilst there’s now a picture of Long-COVID symptoms, doctors seem to be advocating a combination of symptom management with a focus on boosting the immune system long-term. I have not been able to discover any evidence-based treatments.

The reason for writing this article is to share what I’ve learnt from treating a wide variety of patients. I want to get the message out that it is possible to treat the most common Long-COVID symptoms of debilitating fatigue and brain fog.

In the UK only a tiny percentage of people who contract COVID need hospital treatment. Most battle the illness at home and it was only in November last year that the NHS announced 40 new clinics opening to study Long-COVID.

Official data suggests that a fifth of people with coronavirus still have symptoms five weeks after becoming infected, with one in ten symptomatic for twelve weeks.  A recent study carried out in Wuhan found that three in four people hospitalised with COVID-19 still had symptoms six months after being discharged. It is troubling to reflect that most of these people have no access to medical advice or treatment and living with their symptoms is likely to aggravate their stress levels with a knock-on impact on their mental health.

Whilst I lead a holistic healthcare centre, my primary training as an osteopath means that I tend to analyse patients from an osteopathic perspective first.  Many people think osteopathy is just structural, solely treating musculoskeletal issues, but in fact goes beyond this to help regulate and optimise health on a multisystemic level treating the nervous, lymphatic, endocrines (hormonal), and immune systems. This multisystemic approach is where Western medicine falls short.

In treating my Long-COVID patients it’s clear they’re not suffering from an isolated issue. Multiple systems, (including multiorgan system, endocrine, lymphatic, nervous and musculoskeletal) have been fatigued and exhausted by the virus.  In response, a holistic and integrative approach has significantly, and at times after a single treatment, aided the recovery of my patients.

 

CASE STUDY:

Charlotte, 38, contracted COVID-19 in March 2020 and was initially ill for three weeks with fever and breathlessness. After almost completely recovering, further waves of fever followed. Despite the hot weather over the summer months, and usually resilient to the cold, she spent several weeks indoors wrapped up in layers of clothing. Next came the spiralling infections over an eight to 10 week period. Symptoms included sinus and throat infections, which appeared to be localised and were unsuccessfully treated with antibiotics. Three months on from when she first became ill, she suffered from bad headaches and fatigue and sought treatment. After four osteopathy and cranial osteopathy treatments, her health has almost returned to the same as before she caught the virus.

“What was most striking to me was how this was not like normal flu where you would expect to bounce back. I had a severely weakened immune system, resulting in multiple secondary infections, as well as several post-viral symptoms.  I needed an additional intervention and one that treated all the body’s systems. I doubt I would have made a full recovery without these treatments.”

 

The most widespread symptom among Long-COVID sufferers is muscle fatigue and weak muscle tone underlying the common thread of debilitating fatigue.  This is also common with post-viral chronic fatigue where, before recovery, there’s a chemical process that results in mild inflammation within the musculoskeletal and multiorgan system.

I have consistently detected inflammation of the muscles and connective tissue in my Long-COVID patients. Those who have previously led very physical and active lifestyles find even gentle stretching stressful.  With the musculoskeletal system unable to support the body’s frame, patients experience a general sense of restriction and fatigue.  Many find it difficult to carry out even basic everyday tasks and functions.

 

CASE STUDY:

Clare, 56, spent two weeks bedridden with the virus in April 2020, with a fever, breathlessness, and extreme fatigue. She had rashes on her fingers and toes, and her sense of taste and smell were also altered. Further knocks to her health came in four waves over the next month, including debilitating tiredness and hot flushes. After this, she was able to resume some of her usual daily tasks. However, she began to suffer from aches and pains, particularly in her hips and coccyx. A course of treatments has been focused on addressing the muscle fatigue and weak muscle tone endemic to Long-Covid and chronic fatigue syndrome with osteopathic techniques and acupuncture.

In the past, I’ve been highly responsive to treatment at the Clinic for aches and pains. What has struck me, in this case, is how much the virus has exacerbated these underlying issues. The long-tail impact of the virus has really weakened my muscles. Each time I have a treatment, I make progress and get stronger. Now that I’m almost back to full health, I’m increasing my yoga practice and returning to gardening, and I’m hopeful that soon I’ll l be able to resume these activities to the same level as before.”

 

My cranial osteopathic training enables me to work beyond the musculoskeletal system to analyse the movement and alignment of the central nervous, glandular, lymphatic and multiorgan system.  Long-COVID patients often present with a congested lymphatic system, which is unsurprising as this is one of the most active defensive mechanisms under viral attack.  Patients I have treated consistently present with exhausted lymphatic systems, especially in the major lymph glands.

In healthy central nervous systems the spinal fluid has a natural coiling and uncoiling motion, similar to the pulse of the cardiovascular system.   In Long-COVID patients, the fluid feels static and congested, as does their connective tissue.  In a similar way the multiorgan system, from intestinal tissues to reproductive organs, feel congested and tight.

The impact on sufferers’ lungs and breathing is also palpable in patients who present with deflated lungs, lack of fluid within the lung tissue itself and physical tiredness of the diaphragm.  Whilst not all patients present with these symptoms, those who do face ongoing difficulties with breathing normally. Chronic fatigue is, however, the most common thread.

 Scientific research into chronic fatigue syndrome now attributes fatigue to changes to normal cellular function. This is because our mitochondria, the part of our cells responsible for producing most of the body’s energy, cannot effectively function after defending against external pathogens during a viral attack.

The insights and professional knowledge I have accumulated in treating a wide spectrum of patients over the past 25 years has allowed me to go much deeper with my patients to provide a genuinely holistic and effective treatment programme.  This depth has been invaluable preparation for the influx of Long-COVID patients over the last few months.

Over the years I have seen that people with weaker immune systems find they cannot recover from a strong post-viral infection, often developing chronic fatigue symptoms.  Right now, a similar pattern is occurring with Long-COVID.  The strength of this virus is sending the immune system into reactivity where it becomes exhausted attempting to fight off the virus.  The adrenal and autonomic nervous systems, also central to the response, become depleted and chronic fatigue type symptoms follow.   Interestingly, this is a consistent response that doesn’t seem to be related to the initial spectrum of mild to severe COVID symptoms.

Overshadowing the physical symptoms reported, the emotional and mental impact of COVID-19, especially on those battling long-term symptoms, has been less frequently discussed.  When I look into my patients’ eyes I can immediately detect the significant mental and emotional strain they are under anxiety at living for as long as they have with these symptoms, no solutions despite consulting their usual medical professionals, often compounded by being separated from their wider support network.

The impact of anxiety and stress on the body is palpable. The nervous system is strained and depleted and there is an obvious tension in the face and head. High levels of fear, anxiety, stress, and grief all impact our physical health, blocking full recovery, which is why the role of holistic care is so important.

The purpose of sharing my experience is to offer a new perspective for the treatment of Long-COVID, one that will help people realise they don’t need to suffer and that effective support is available.

The holistic approach to treatment is fundamentally different from a Western medical approach in that it goes beyond the physical to encompass the mind, emotions and spirit.  As we know, a virus affects more than just one system in the body.  When you are also presented with mental and emotional stressors the treatment needs to address the whole person to be effective.

The holistic approach does this as well as taking into account the uniqueness of each individual.  As a skilled practitioner, I am looking to understand every aspect of my patient to develop a tailored treatment programme with the precise interventions they need to recover and thrive. For me, there are a variety of modalities and treatments that can be combined to optimize results.  Over the years I have successfully worked with osteopathy, cranial osteopathy and acupuncture to support chronic fatigue syndrome patients.

Osteopathy is already well known for helping with musculoskeletal issues. There are techniques to improve alignment, movement and restore fluid to joints, muscles and connective tissues. However, where tightness and constriction are caused by fatigue rather than injury, recovery can be a prolonged process so there is value in also drawing on other techniques.

Cranial osteopathy can help stimulate and ease stagnation in the lymphatic and glandular systems. It can be utilised to assist the lungs and respiratory organ system, with specific techniques to improve lung function and strengthen the intercostal and diaphragm muscles. I have found cranial techniques extremely effective for treating the ‘brain fog’ many Long-COVID sufferers have been afflicted with. These techniques have released pressure in the connective tissues and nerves around the brain and tightness in the facial muscles.

 

CASE STUDY:

Rachel, 32, tested positive for COVID-19 in October 2020, and had mild to moderate symptoms for two weeks, including a headache, tiredness, and a slight cough. After an initial two weeks of illness, she believed she was fully recovered. However, for the next 10 weeks, a cycle of intermittent debilitating ‘brain fog’ and extreme fatigue followed. Unable to sustain mental concentration, she could only work 10 hours a week in this period. During her first session at Sen Wellness Clinic, it was immediately clear that her dura, the outer layer of connective tissue surrounding the brain and spinal cord, had become extremely tight and contracted under attack from the virus. Applying cranial osteopathic techniques to her head eased this cranial pressure with immediate effect.

I felt like a totally different person leaving the Clinic from the one who had entered. It was almost unbelievable to experience such a dramatic shift in the space of an hour. After nearly three months of stress and worry, not knowing when I’d recover, I’m no longer plagued by ‘brain fog’, and I have regained my previous energy levels, and ability to focus.”

 

Acupuncture is also effective in treating chronic fatigue syndrome. Research from the BMJ notes that traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has been ‘applied widely, and has played substantial roles in the management of COVID-19 in China.’ In my practice,  I use traditional five elements of acupuncture to target specific meridian points in the body which also helps to facilitate the physiological changes that my osteopathic work is focused on.

There are also some lifestyle elements that sufferers can consider to support their recovery. In other circumstances, my opinion is that vitamins, supplements and herbal medicines are overrated. However, I think Long-COVID patients would benefit from additional support, specifically Vitamin B complex, which feeds into the nervous system, and Vitamin C to boost the immune system. It might be wise to analyse vitamin levels via blood sampling for further clarification. Breathing exercises are also worth exploring, and there are now a plethora of online resources and practitioners to draw support from.

To make a full recovery, we also need to look at the effect of any illness on confidence, anxiety and stress levels. I work closely with patients offering guidance on how to pace themselves when getting back to work. This is particularly important given today’s screen-heavy lives and the screen aversion that those with ‘brain fog’ and fatigue naturally have. I believe it’s also valuable to use some energy reserves spending time in nature and, if restrictions allow, spending time with and getting support from good friends.

I am writing this to offer some hope to those suffering from Long-COVID who may currently believe their situation is hopeless.  There are effective treatments available and it is possible to recover within a relatively short time frame.  I would encourage everyone to seek the necessary support for musculoskeletal, glandular and lymphatic systems to recover. Without this, recovery will potentially take many more months.

I would recommend finding a local holistic practitioner, osteopath or acupuncturist, ideally recommended by word of mouth.  If they have a history of successfully treating patients with chronic fatigue, even better.

There is a limit to what can be achieved via a screen. Over 25 years I have repeatedly seen that healing happens more easily when my patient is in my consulting room. The practitioner can provide a reassuring presence and the benefits of being able to look into a patient’s eyes, feel the connection and empathy as human-to-human, cannot be underestimated.

For those who are truly unable to access professional help from a holistic practitioner, there are some DIY techniques you can do at home. You are welcome to contact us at the Clinic for more advice. www.senwellnessclinic.co.uk

 

Sources:

NHS England, ‘NHS launches 40 ‘long COVID’ clinics to tackle persistent symptoms’,

https://www.england.nhs.uk/2020/11/nhs-launches-40-long-covid-clinics-to-tackle-persistent-symptoms/

The Guardian, ‘Long Covid alarms as 21% report symptoms after five weeks’, https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/dec/16/long-covid-alarm-as-21-report-symptoms-after-five-weeks

Huffington Post, ‘3 in 4 Covid Hospital Patients Struggling With Long Covid Six Months Later’, https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/long-covid-wuhan-study_uk_5ff87febc5b66f3f795d5f6e?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZWNvc2lhLm9yZy8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAALzkrcx4R9pEwgGPQU1aIzaH-amAXzZXW7Az4yXH-S1Xsp-V5iwjDyE9Bf4oYkjaNpMJudvhNtK2f6yTb4boFiPOt3hNGLdXejPFaB4jtLvaESr9C90tkTj5yzYW8mwI39S3ot813EmvFzdH5eFQkwuueGcYFaBw1MTW8ma_BiTU

ITV, ‘Long Covid: What is it, what are the symptoms and what help is there for sufferers?’ https://www.itv.com/news/2020-08-12/long-covid-what-is-it-what-are-the-symptoms-and-what-help-is-there-for-sufferers

The ME Association: ‘MEA Summary Review: The role of Mitochondria in ME/CFS’, 12th July 2019, https://meassociation.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/MEA-Summary-Review-The-Role-of-Mitochondria-in-MECFS-12.07.19.pdf

BMJ: ‘Rapid Response: Traditional Chinese Medicine for COVID-19’ https://www.bmj.com/content/368/bmj.m606/rr-13

Sam Kankanamge

Sam Kankanamge BSc (Hons) Osteo, DPO, Dip.Acu is an exceptional, world renowned healthcare professional, with over 25 years-experience transforming patients’ health, and has been called ‘the best back specialist in the country’ by The Times (2014).

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Asrar Mousli
Asrar Mousli
10:24 16 Oct 21
My time at Sen was nothing short of transformational. Every day in that sanctuary brought me a new gift, a new truth, or a new opportunity to heal from my pain. It wasn’t always smooth, or necessarily happy, but it was deeply fulfilling to my body, my soul, and my soma. It almost felt like a pilgrimage to nature, to purity. The people I met there, the conversations and rituals we had together, the meals, laughs, and stories we shared, they were life-altering for me. Some of those moments left an impact that is still with me today, two months later. Thank you Sen team for all you have given and done. 🤍
Karin Richter
Karin Richter
04:51 03 Sep 21
I was a part of the Golden Summer Retreat at Senwellnesssanctuary. This has been a very intense experience. The Sanctuary is built within the middle of nature on the lagoon near Tangalle with an outstanding architecture. The whole stuff is perfect working together within their different tasks and does everything for the wellbeeing of the guests. Very soon you don't feel as a guest but more as a member of a loving and caring family. Excellent ayurvedic food, doctor and treatments as a basic for a deep going transformation process with special tools and combination of ongoing steps. A real magic experience within the travel bubble in islandwide lockdown and global pandemic. My deepest gratitude for all the people there which makes this possible
Karin Richter
Karin Richter
12:55 02 Sep 21
I just was part of the Golden Summer Retreat at Sen Wellness. This was a very special and magic experience on an outstanding place in nature with awasome people on a wonderful island. Started with super friendly and caring hotel managing team, best ayurvedic kitchen, doctor and treatments, lovely yoga work and special and carefully developed transformation tools and process. Highly recommend Sen Wellness for a mindful and deep going stay. My deepest thanks for all who created and worked for this space and give their best whatever their task is
Paul Kelly
Paul Kelly
05:34 06 Jul 21
This was my first wellness trip .. and I loved it!Every other holiday I have been on involved drinking and returning to normality feeling worse than I did before I left.After visiting Sen for 2 weeks, I felt brand new.Before leaving I was concerned that I would get bored, but I never did. Just pure peace, relaxation, and contentment, for 2 full weeks.You get so well looked after every day, from the early morning tea wake up call, to your serving of herbal medicine before bed. With plenty of yoga, meditation, and treatments in between.The food is delicious! Clean and fresh. The daily ayurvedic treatments are bliss and the beach is isolated and beautiful, perfect for an afternoon stroll.Thank you to all the staff at Sen for making my stay so worth it. From the management, chefs, cleaners, treatment therapists, yogis, the monk and especially the resident doctor, who put a smile on my face every day!I recommend Sen to anyone that just needs a good break from life. To switch off, refresh and reconnect with yourself. The results are long lasting.Paul.
Pruz0001 Pruz0001
Pruz0001 Pruz0001
18:32 24 May 21
Perfect place to truly reset yourself physically, mentally and spiritually. Pricing is very cheap for what they offer - all inclusive food (each meal a symphony!), treatment plan, massages, shirodara, cleansing options, beautiful accommodations, gorgeous secluded beach with turtles, daily herbs per your plan as prescribed, daily yogic practices etc etc. Current is strong so might need to arrange for lifeguard for swimming. I highly recommend this place for tired Europeans and US residents. Yes, even from US, totally worth the loooong flight. If you want to explore the country after quarantine at SenWellness, recommend hiring a private driver guide as public transport is not welcoming tourists per covid.
Trajce Dimkov
Trajce Dimkov
04:33 20 May 21
I spent 2 weeks at Sun Wellness to rest and recharge/detox from the every day life. It was an amazing place.The staff is professional and super helpful. We got delicious food everyday (mostly vegan), and daily support from a doctor that monitored how are we doing.The yoga teacher was also excellent and i enjoyed the 2 sessions we got every day.The massages were the best I got in my life. they really knew the anatomy of the body and focused on the right muscles and pain points. It was a great recovery after the yoga sessions and long beach walks.Finally, the beach is amazing. Its long with kilometers, its sandy, its full with palm trees. And the best part, we saw plenty of giant turtles nesting on the beach and small turtles hatching almost every day.The trip was a great pleasure, and left me refreshed, energized and more mindful. I warmly recommend this place.
Christian Wellinger
Christian Wellinger
07:39 23 Apr 21
I was planning to come there for only one week to start practicing yoga and also to see if ayurvedic treatments were helping me to overcome some of the stress as most people experienced in this Covid period. After only a few days i already felt how the daily practices in Sen Wellness Sanctuary (with daily yoga and meditation classes, ayurvedic treatments and super healthy and natural food) changed my perceptions and helped me to become much more centered and connected with myself again. That is why i extended another week and it was a very good decision to strengthen the skills and way of life which is thaught there. The place is really well made which lots of attention to details and the location at the remote and beautiful Rekawa beach can not be better to get into the vibe and spirit you feel there.Thanks alot to Dr. Sam and the whole staff for this fantastic experience.
Gabrielle Stewart
Gabrielle Stewart
16:58 20 Apr 21
I didn’t think it would be possible to travel somewhere far during this pandemic, let alone feel completely safe, in awe of all the country’s and the sanctuary’s protocols, and their ability to allow you to enter a bubble with a group of fellow retreaters so that for 10 days we completely forgot about the covid world out there. In our little haven between beach and lagoon we healed, relaxed, meditated, swam, did yoga, slept, made life-long friends and found an emotionally safe place to let go, process, feel vulnerable and share much needed laughter. You return home so healthy from the incredible locally sourced foods and the cleansing monitored by an impressive ayurvedic doctor, so at peace... Now the challenge is to use all those new tools we have acquired there and use them in our daily lives to feel happier and more fulfilled in our day to day lives. Thank you to the whole amazing Sen Wellness team. Namaste.
Pawel Marona
Pawel Marona
16:35 18 Apr 21
Amazing place with beautiful people. Delicious food and great, helpful stuff. I've been very satisfied of treatments and whole stay. Really recommend that place!
Mark Ford
Mark Ford
13:21 18 Apr 21
The Sen wellness centre was a refreshing place to find. The current world, post covid climate only served to boost this gem of a (possibly) life changing, experience.Arriving at the centre was a little daunting to start with, people sitting at a large table engaging in lively, upbeat conversations, whilst the newbies sit in partial isolation. A requirement of law to ensure covid safety for all at the centre but a comforting experience none the less.After a day or so of settling in (this being my first experience of such a place), I was blown away by the warmth of the team. All professionalism and smiles, from the doctor to the cleaners, they all made you feel incredibly welcome and special.In turn, this encourages you to be equally open. Not an easy thing for us all to do but once you start, you begin to feel your way and gain in confidence, finding a better you.Then there are the treatments .. I have been a meat eater for 20 years and here I was with no meat, no dairy, no bread and butter and no alcohol, tea or coffee & enjoying it all, looking forward to all meals and often asking for seconds. It’s amazing how one’s pallet can change.Living on a mainly plant based diet took a few days to get used to but my body ended up feeling like it hasn’t done since childhood. Functioning as it should, processing the food easily, no bloating or discomfort and sleeping like a baby in the wonderful surroundings.The diet along with a tailor based health plan of herbal medicine, teas, detoxes, yoga and a general reset have changed the way that I feel and also how I am starting to think.It’s not just the food and the treatments. The energy of the staff and the guests who visit Sen Wellness is heart-warming experience, I cannot recommend it highly enough.I’d also like to thank all those that shared this experience with me .. thank you guys, it was amazing !Take time out of what you consider to be the important things in your life. Take a trip to this centre and find out for yourselves what is really important. Forget the constant consumption that we are fed, as being a necessity to happiness on a daily basis - go and feed your soul, you really will not regret it !
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