You might think that once you have COVID and get through it without major issues that life will resume as before. But for over a third of folks, that isn’t true. Long COVID is the term used by doctors for the symptoms that persist for weeks, months, or, in some cases now, years. And these can cause issues in multiple organs and body systems.
Long COVID has over 200 recognized symptoms. With that many aspects to the conditions, there isn’t a single surefire way to help patients. But stimulation of the vagus nerve and parasympathetic system can help relieve some symptoms that seem to be related to inflammation of the vagus nerve.
Some of the specific crossover between vagus nerve inflammation and long COVID include:
- Headaches and migraines
- Brain fog
- Vertigo and dizziness
- Throat tightness and difficulty swallowing
- Chest tightness and difficulty breathing
- Teeth chattering and jaw weakenss
- Panic attacks
- IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)
- Tingle and numbness in the hands and feet
Managing Long COVID Symptoms
Tips for vagus nerve/parasympathetic stimulation, taken from a guide by Jodi Cohen:
- Cold exposure (e.g. 30-second cold shower, warm bath/shower followed by 30-60 second cold shower, holding a ziplock bag full of ice against face for 30 seconds, drinking cold fluids, splashing cold water on face, sauna followed by cold shower)
- Humming, singing, chanting. Especially in a group (e.g. joining a choir)
- Deep and slow breathing: e.g. in for four, fold for 4, out for 6-8, wait for 4.
- Supporting gut health: probiotics
- Exercise and physical movement (combination of walking, high-intensity exercise, weight-lifting)
- Sunlight: ideally 20-30 minutes first thing in the morning, but also in the afternoon when sun is at peak
- Grounding: e.g. being in nature, walking barefoot on grass/ a beach, consuming earth-grown plants
- Essential oils (inhaling lavender, bergamot)
- Laughing and smiling (even relaxing face often during the day through a forced smile)
- Social connection
- Sleeping on right side
- Intermittent fasting: one can start by reducing eating window to 8-12 hours
- Epsom salt baths
- Gargling, gagging, chewing (e.g. thoroughly and mindfully chewing your food, gargling for 2 minutes 3 times/ day)
- Keeping a gratitude journal (writing down 3 moments of joy before going to bed)
- Safety cues: practicing mentally traveling to a safe, favorite place, with as many sensory cues as possible (smells, sounds, colors). It can be real or imaginary, or a combination.
- Massage and acupuncture
- Chiropractic adjustments/ correcting spinal misalignment
- Music therapy/ sound therapy: e.g. using a tuning fork, listening to long, sustained sounds
Here’s an infographic to download with more information.
How Do You Manage Long COVID?
Reddit has a great community called COVID Longhaulers with advice founded in science on how to help managed symptoms. Share any tips you have below!