Dr. Ellen Price, DO
Colorado Canyons Hospital and Medical Center

With lowered restrictions and a growing number of individuals receiving vaccinations, it’s tempting to believe COVID-19 is safely behind us. Dr. Ellen Price is daily aware that for many in our valley this is simply not the case.

Her particular rehab clinic, located in the Colorado Canyons Hospital and Medical Center of Family Health West (FHW) in Fruita, is seeing a growing number of “post-acute COVID syndrome” cases—those who experience ongoing symptoms after recovering or partly recovering from an initial coronavirus infection. Lingering effects often include fatigue, dizziness, brain fog, dysautonomia, headaches, and stomach issues. “There is no complaint that we don’t address because post-COVID is serious,” says Price.

Many post-COVID treatments do not fit a standard protocol. Typically, the patient is female (at a 4:1 ratio), under 40, often strong and athletic and usually a COVID-19 outpatient whose initial symptoms were not too severe. And yet, the disturbing complications persist and disrupt daily life. “It can be very devastating,” comments Price.

Dr. Price explains how FHW’s currently developing, post-COVID clinic is seeking to make headway in largely uncharted medical territory. “The post-covid clinic is under the rehabilitation purview,” she says while adding, “figuring out treatment protocol is hard because nothing is standard.” Price describes how researchers are seeing similarities between post-COVID and post-Polio or post-West Nile cases, sometimes using the broader classification of “post-viral syndrome” to umbrella these comparable conditions. “[Physicians are] looking at these other post-viral cases for help,” she says, and adds that this is hopeful, as a majority of these patients have made great strides forward or have fully recovered over time.

So far, one of the most effective therapies for post-COVID has been reintroducing patients to light, paced, low-impact exercise, including making use of the Fruita Community Center Pool, conveniently located just next door to Price’s office. FHW’s rehab clinic also has a psychologist who has started virtual group therapy sessions in order to offer a holistic approach to recovery. Additionally, the team has been practicing integrative medicine. Research has uncovered links between the efficacy of various vitamins in building the body’s natural defenses against COVID-19. For example, we now know that Vitamin-D is essential in avoiding susceptibility to the disease.

Dr. Price is excited about new COVID-19 research being launched with Colorado Mesa University. The institution is joining up to collaborate with The Broad Institute—a Harvard and MIT combo—in a pilot genomic study. “The study will focus on our cohort of about 70 positive COVID-19 cases,” she says. “We are working with CMU to do some retrospective studies in the future.”

In addition to these recent developments due to COVID-19, Price continues to work with her usual rehabilitation patients. Trained as a physiatrist, and with years of experience under her belt, Price works to rehabilitate patients with spinal cord injuries, head injuries, stroke, multiple sclerosis and various chronic pain conditions, including some pediatric patients. Her ongoing focus is to help people with devastating injuries get back to their highest level of functioning. Part of her job includes managing the teams including physical, speech and occupational therapists as well as psychologists. “We pick up the pieces and speak with one voice so that person can get back to daily function and quality of life.”

Some of the various therapies Dr. Price specializes in are Osteopathic manipulation; Botox injections for spasticity, headaches, or Dystonia in the neck; and acupuncture as an alternative to medication for pain management. She believes strongly that step-by-step progress is the way to improve overall health. “Where surgeons get to see big things accomplished overnight, I celebrate the small steps forward.”

Dr. Price cites studies which show changes in the amygdala and prefrontal cortex from meditation and mindfulness as evidence for making use of these practices with her clients. “People…look externally for locus of control; they think there’s some fix ‘out there.’ I talk to people about the locus of control being internal. Until you can go inside it’s really impossible to fix any chronic problem. I try to teach people mindfulness and breathing techniques. I’m constantly telling people to do even just ten minutes of yoga a day…to try to find the fix internally. And inevitably, a lightbulb will go on.”

It is clear Dr. Price is energized by what she does. “I love my patients! They’re the greatest! I love sitting with them and that they confide in me. I feel so honored that I get to do this. The teamwork in rehab is what really helps improve patients and this is most gratifying.”

In addition to relishing her work, Dr. Price and her husband Randy love hanging out with their son Liam and two mini Aussies, Chester and Sundae. The couple are avid cyclists, finishing Ride the Rockies three times. They are currently training for a 10-day bike ride in Albania this September.