AAPM&R is Calling for a Comprehensive National Plan to Address the Needs of Millions Suffering from Long COVID

According to two recent publications from the Journal of the American Medical Association, ten to thirty percent of individuals who had COVID-19 reported at least one persistent symptom up to six months after the virus left their bodies. That means 3 to 10 million Americans are experiencing symptoms of Long COVID or Post-Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC), which are varied and ongoing, including neurological challenges, cognitive problems such as brain fog, shortness of breath, fatigue, pain, and mobility issues.

AAPM&R called on President Joe Biden and Congress to gear up for the next coronavirus crisis by preparing and implementing a comprehensive national plan focused on meeting the needs of millions of individuals suffering from the long-term symptoms of COVID-19, and help them regain quality of life and return to being active members of their communities. The plan must include a commitment to three major components:

  • Resources to build necessary infrastructure to meet this crisis
  • Equitable access to care for patients
  • Research to advance medical understanding of Long COVID

PM&R physicians are uniquely qualified to help guide the multidisciplinary effort needed to develop a plan for this crisis. As a specialty, physiatrists are investigators, team leaders and problem solvers. PM&R physicians see the whole patient AND the whole picture of the rehabilitation ecosystem. Physiatrists are exactly what this crisis needs. Learn more about our Multidisciplinary PASC Collaborative, launched in March 2021, which is working on quality improvement initiatives.

AAPM&R Advocacy, Healthcare Collaborations and Partnerships, and Customized Resources to Support PM&R During This Crisis

AAPM&R is working to ensure PM&R is part of the national conversation about healthcare amidst COVID-19 and advocating for the federal support, legislation, regulation relief and resources that physiatrists need now. One way we are doing this is through our partnerships and collaborations with other specialty societies. The Academy continuously works to represent PM&R through these collaborations, and it is through these partnerships that we are able to discuss and share a variety of resources with you that you critically need.

Stay Up-to-Date

AAPM&R Long COVID Neurological Symptoms Guidance Statement Announced

May 16, 2023

Today, we announced new guidance for diagnosing and treating common symptoms of neurological complications from Long COVID. The statement was developed by AAPM&R's PASC Collaborative, a multidisciplinary group of physicians, clinicians and patient advocates convened to address the pressing need for guidance in caring for patients with Long COVID.

Long COVID remains a long-term public health issue. New data suggests antiviral treatments for COVID-19 may help prevent Long COVID, but millions of Americans still suffer from symptoms of Long COVID.

Long COVID symptoms are varied, ongoing and are often experienced in clusters. The most common neurologic Long COVID symptoms include headaches, weakness, muscular numbness, pain, tremors and palsy.

“Identifying patients with progressive or ominous "red flag" neurological symptoms is essential for emergent triaging,” said Dr. Leslie Rydberg, co-author of the neurology Long COVID guidance statement. “These symptoms may be due to Long COVID versus another medical condition, but a history and physical examination is essential.” She added that patients should be evaluated if neurological symptoms are not improving one month after acute symptom onset.

Patients who seek earlier evaluation, diagnosis and symptom management can improve with beneficial interventions. Outpatient physical and occupational therapy benefits Long COVID patients, but there remain significant gaps in health equity for certain populations. Physiatrists see the whole patient AND the whole picture of the rehabilitation ecosystem and help individuals recover quicker and more fully. 

These statements are part of a multidisciplinary collaborative consensus guidance series for the most predominant Long COVID symptoms, published in AAPM&R's PM&R Journal. The first consensus guidance on fatigue was released in August 2021, followed by guidance on breathing discomfort and cognitive symptoms in December, cardiovascular complications in June 2022 and pediatrics and autonomic dysfunction in September. An additional consensus guidance statement on Long COVID in mental health will be published next.

Please join us in sharing this guidance with your colleagues to support patients. Learn more.