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How to Identify Neurologic Symptoms of Long COVID in a Short Primary Care Visit: A Physiatry-based Guide

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"The first thing I want all primary care physicians to know is that long COVID- associated neurologic symptoms are common. Muscle pain, tremors, numbness and tingling, sleep disorders, loss of taste and smell are just a few," said Leslie Rydberg, MD, coauthor of a new multidiscliplinary guidance statement on assessment and treatment of neurologic sequelae of COVID-19, or, long COVID.

The statement is one in an interdisciplinary series on management of long COVID symptoms spearheaded by the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

"There are people who have not fully recovered from COVID infections they had in 2020-2021. There are people with much more recent COVID infections who are still having symptoms. This really is not over and it's unfortunately something that we as a medical community are going to keep working on for years to come." Primary care clinicians, she added, are typically the first health care professionals to see a patient with symptoms that may be directly, or possibly indirectly, associated with a prior COVID-19 infection.

Rydberg, a physiatrist and associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation and medical education at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, spoke recently with Patient Care® about how primary care clinicians can focus the limited time they have with patients when they suspect a neurologic complaint may be the result of COVID-19.


Leslie Rydberg, MD, is associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation and medical education at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and the Henry and Monika Betts medical student education chair and assistant residency program director at the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab in Chicago, IL.

The new statement on diagnosis and management neurologic sequelae of COVID-19 is part of a multidisciplinary collaborative consensus guidance series addressing the most predominant long COVID symptoms, an effort led by the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

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. Links to all the current guidance statements can be found here. An additional consensus guidance statement on Long COVID in mental health will be published next.


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