Is Back Pain a Sign of Covid?
Can Covid-19 cause back pain?
Back pain is far and away the most common reason patients walk into Ascent Chiropractic, and while that was true even before the pandemic, the number of people dealing with back pain has jumped by an astonishing 65% in the past two years. Almost 5 out of every 10 adults now say they’ve dealt with significant back pain since the beginning of covid, even though most of those had never experienced back pain before.
Why? To no one’s surprise, we’re seeing more patients with chronic back issues flaring back up because they’re sitting more and moving less. We’re also seeing new cases of back pain caused by dramatically altered daily routines – let’s face it, transitioning to working from home hasn’t been great for anyone’s spine.
And finally, we’re seeing new cases of back pain directly related to infections by SARS-Cov-2 (the virus that causes covid-19) itself.
Bad news: we’ll be seeing even more of it soon. Just last week, South African scientists studying 78,000 cases of Omicron identified back pain as one of the most distinctive symptoms connected to the new fast-spreading variant. In fact, it was the increased prevalence of back muscle pain (or myalgia) that first led to the investigation of Omicron as a potential new Covid-19 variant.
Covid & Back Pain: What’s the connection?
Back pain by itself usually doesn’t point to a covid infection. However, if you’re dealing with general body aches, headaches, a fever, a cough, or a runny nose in addition to back pain, it’s possible you’re looking at the symptoms of covid. People fighting off a covid infection (especially of the new Omicron variety) often experience significant muscle pain and achiness due to the body’s inflammatory response – a recent meta-analysis found that 36% of people who tested positive for covid also reported back pain.
It’s the same reason many people experience muscle soreness, aches, and back pain after the covid vaccine, which is normal and means that the immune system is reacting like it’s designed to.
The muscle aches and pains covid patients experience are the result of immune system cells releasing interleukins. Interleukins are pro-inflammatory cytokine proteins that help in the fight against invading viruses and bacteria.
Interleukins are a normal and necessary part of your body’s immune response. They only become a problem when their production accelerates out of control. That can result in cytokine storm – a severe immune reaction in which the body releases too many cytokine proteins too quickly that’s the cause of most organ and tissue damage in severe covid infections.
What does Covid-19 back pain feel like?
The aches and pains you’ll feel from a Covid-19 infection are much different than the soreness you’d experience after, say, an intense back workout at the gym. In general, back pain caused by covid feels like deep, diffuse cramping or spasming of the back muscles that persists for multiple days – up to two weeks. Covid back pain is also less likely to get better with changes in posture. For instance, ordinary back pain tends to improve when you lay down, but back pain caused by a covid infection persists no matter what position your body is in.
Thankfully, the pain isn’t usually incapacitating.
So if you have other signs of Covid-19 in addition to deep, muscular back pain, make sure you get tested. If you test positive and your symptoms are considered mild, your doctor may recommend Tylenol to reduce pain and fever along with dry heat to help relieve muscle aches. Resting, staying hydrated, and stretching can be helpful, too.
But if your back pain is localized over a joint, persists more than two weeks, becomes more severe over time, or if you’re experiencing pain or numbness down your legs, make an appointment at Ascent Chiropractic to make sure you’re getting the right diagnosis.
At Ascent, we utilize state-of-the-art diagnostic imaging along with hands-on spinal manipulation, soft tissue physiotherapy, and active rehabilitation to diagnose and eliminate back pain. And if we can’t help, we’ll sort out who can and refer you appropriately. To make an appointment at Ascent Chiropractic, call us at 262-345-4166 or by using our online scheduling app.