Publication date: Sep 21, 2023
Cognitive impairment is one of the commonly reported Long COVID symptoms, mainly in terms of memory, attention, and executive function. The cognitive symptoms of Long COVID are similar to “brain fog” or “chemo brain”, manifested as low energy, disorientation, difficulties in attention and communication which are common conditions in cancer patients after chemotherapy. Given the negative impact of such cognitive impairment in daily living and working, it is important to develop effective treatment and self-management techniques to enhance cognitive functions in COVID-19 survivors. Acupuncture, acupressure, dantian breathing, and qigong are promising treatment and self-management techniques to remedy the cognitive impairment in people with Long COVID. Since acupressure, dantian breathing, and qigong are feasible for self-practice, they can be trained to promote a healthy lifestyle. The present study is a randomized controlled trial to evaluate the efficacy of acupuncture, lifestyle management (including dantian breathing, qigong, and acupressure), and acupuncture + lifestyle management to improve general cognitive function of people with Long COVID symptoms, compared with wait-list control. We will recruit 100 COVID-19 survivors who experience at least mild cognitive impairment and/or self-complaint of cognitive difficulty for at least 12 weeks after clinical recovery from COVID-19 infection. They will be randomly assigned to the following groups: (1) Acupuncture Group; (2) Lifestyle Management Group; (3) Acupuncture + Lifestyle Management Group; and (4) Waitlist Control Group. Acupuncture and lifestyle management will each take 8 weeks, with two 50-min sessions per week. Primary outcome is general cognitive function. Secondary outcomes cover fatigue, physical fitness, neurocognitive function, psychological distress, and health-related quality of life, pro-inflammatory cytokines (IL-6, TNF-α) and salivary cortisol. Assessment will be conducted at baseline, mid-intervention (4 weeks after baseline), post-intervention (8 weeks after baseline), and 4-week follow-up (12 weeks after baseline).