Carvings March 1, 2022
In the news
The COVID silver lining
A very large percentage of persons who have had symptomatic COVID-19 infection are still suffering from Long COVID, a condition with many and varied symptoms that include fatigue, headache, fuzzy thinking, joint pains, poor appetite, continued loss of sense of taste and smell, memory loss and a host of others. Scientists are beginning to unravel this problem but long COVID will probably require several approaches to treatment.
One possibility is that the virus has damaged some organs and their recovery is a long process. This coronavirus targets blood vessels that are critical to the nourishment of cells and to the removal of their waste products.
Another proposal is that the coronavirus reactivates another virus that lies dormant in the body. The best example of such a hidden virus is the common disease called shingles (nothing to do with roofs but that is a story for another blog) that results when the chickenpox virus emerges from its sanctuary in the nerves alongside the spinal cord to cause a painful, sometimes debilitating skin eruption, especially in older persons. In the case of long COVID one suspect virus is the Epstein-Barr virus, the agent of infectious mononucleosis – the so-called kissing disease because of its prevalence among adolescents. Infectious mononucleosis is almost universal;most of us have been infected but have had few symptoms. E-B virus infection also sometimes causes weeks of extreme fatigue, although without the other symptoms of long COVID.
Yet another possibility is autoimmunity, wherein the immune system mistakenly causes damage to various organs in the course of attempting to overcome a viral assault. Autoimmune diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and multiple sclerosis as well as type 1 diabetes, the last of which has increased markedly since the pandemic began.
If we can determine what causes long COVID we’re likely to learn how to treat it, and the silver lining is beginning to emerge.
Is it pain or just soreness? When you work a muscle hard, especially if it’s the first time, you know how sore it feels the next day and possibly for several days. That is normal and it is known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). You can avoid it if you begin an exercise program – or a new type of exercise – with very low weight. I recommend that you go through a routine either with no weight at all or an empty barbell or dumbell in your hands or the lowest setting on a weight machine for at least two weeks to open up existing blood vessels and grow new ones. Walkers and runners should start with low speeds and short distances. That may not completely eliminate DOMS but it sure will help.
Pain is different. It sometimes comes on suddenly during or after an exercise, and it’s usually asymmetric – involving only one side of the body, e.g., one shoulder.
Do not try to “work through” DOMS or pain. In the former it’s just not worth the discomfort and in the latter you are likely to make the injury worse.