After the covid outbreak in 2020, it has become common to associate any symptom with this viral infection. So if you are experiencing back pain and you fear it may be covid, you are not alone. Here we’ll tell you everything you have to know.0
Is back pain a sign of COVID-19?
Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) don’t mention back pain as one of the symptoms of covid, the agency does mention muscle or body aches as signs of this viral infection.
In fact, several studies have shown a link between covid and different types of pain, including chest pain, abdominal pain, headache, and of course, back pain.
In 2020 one of them analyzed the pain complaints of 210 covid patients. The results showed that among 133 patients complaining of pain, 43.6% reported experiencing back pain, and 33.1% reported low back pain.
In a social media study performed in 2021, researchers analyzed tweets from November 2019 and November 2020 to compare mentions of back pain. They found 84% more mentions of this topic in 2020.
So, does covid cause back pain? The short answer is yes: back pain could be a symptom of covid 19. However, if you have back pain you shouldn’t just jump to conclusions and assume that you are infected with covid. There are other symptoms you should look out for.
Besides, there are multiple factors that can cause back pain.
How to know if you have COVID-19
Covid manifests differently in each patient. Some may not feel a thing (these cases are known as “asymptomatic”), while others can get very serious and even lead to death.
If you have back pain in the absence of other symptoms, there’s a possibility you have covid, but there are other signs that you should also be aware of.
The main symptoms of covid (the most frequent) are:
- Dry cough
- General discomfort
- Loss of taste and smell
Less frequent symptoms include:
- Sore throat
- Muscular pain‒Including back pain.
Remember, the only way to be certain about having covid 19 is to get a positive diagnostic test. However, even with that, there’s still a chance of an inaccurate result.
How does COVID back pain feel?
Back pain from covid usually appears during the early stages of the infection.
In other cases, it occurs after all the other symptoms have gone. In those situations, it becomes a long-haul symptom and can last for weeks and even months.
Covid back pain feels very different from other types of back pain. The pain is typically described as a spasm or as deep, intense pain, rather than sharp. Some patients label it as weakness. Unlike other types of back pain, it’s unlikely to feel relief from it by changing your posture or doing exercises.
The Omicron variant is actually leading to more cases of back pain than the Delta variant. In contrast, the Delta variant causes more loss of smell and taste.
If you have back pain and get a positive result for covid, your doctor will probably recommend you to take Tylenol (acetaminophen) and apply a heating pad to reduce the pain. If controlled appropriately, the pain will go away within a couple of weeks, but if it's not addressed in a timely manner, the pain could lead to postural problems and long-term pain.
Back pain and COVID: How are they related?
So, why does covid sometimes produce back pain?
It has to do with your body’s immune response to viral infections. The immune system releases a kind of protein known as interleukins, which help fight pathogens such as viruses and harmful bacteria producing an inflammatory effect. The inflammation often settles in a back or pelvic joint, which leads to pain.
Other pandemic-related causes of back pain can be:
- Working from home for long hours (which often leads to bad posture).
- Increased sedentary time.
- Low levels of Vitamin D (from not getting enough sunlight).
Other causes of back pain
Persistent back pain could be a sign of something else. Common causes of back pain include:
- Injuries such as sprains, strains, spasms, and pulled muscles or tendons. You can injure your back in an accident, playing sports, overstretching, or lifting heavy objects.
- Arthritis. Spinal arthritis can affect spine joints or joints located between the spine and the pelvis, producing pain, stiffness, and loss of mobility. It can be osteoarthritis (degenerative arthritis), rheumatoid arthritis (an autoimmune disorder), spondyloarthritis (inflammatory).
- Osteoporosis. This disease causes bones to become weak and fragile. The bones are constantly breaking down and growing back, but when they start breaking down faster than they can reform, it’s called osteoporosis. This leads to back pain, limited mobility, and spinal fractures.
- Herniated or ruptured discs. Herniated discs occur when the discs that connect the spinal bones break, making the nucleus push out through the tear. A herniated disk can irritate a nearby nerve, producing pain, numbness, and other symptoms.
- Fibromyalgia. This disease causes widespread chronic pain, due to an alteration of how the brain perceives pain signals. We don’t yet understand its causes, but we know one of fibromyalgia’s main symptoms is chronic back pain.
- Stress. When you feel stressed, your body’s muscles get tight, which usually affects your neck and lower back. Prolonged tension in these areas can lead to back pain.
How can I treat back pain?
The right treatment for back pain depends on its cause. If your back pain gets in the way of your everyday activities, you should seek medical help and get a proper diagnosis. Some of the recommendations a doctor may give you include:
Medication. Including over-the-counter pain relievers. If your back pain is produced by covid, your doctor may prescribe Tylenol and recommend you to apply a heating pad to the back.
Other types of medication for back pain include muscle relaxants, narcotics, and antidepressants.
Physical therapy. Exercises to increase your flexibility and strength.
Interventions. These can range from minimally invasive procedures, such as nerve blocks and radiofrequency ablation. These procedures are recommended in cases of chronic back pain.
When to call a doctor about back pain
If your back pain persists after three weeks, gets worse with time, or is accompanied by unexplained weight loss or numbness, talk to your doctor.0
What you should know about COVID-related back pain
Although it is not one of its main symptoms, back pain could be a sign of covid. To be sure, you should see a doctor, especially if back pain is getting in the way of your everyday activities.
In case you think you might have covid, get a diagnostic test. If it’s not covid, your doctor will probably ask you to take some tests so they can make a proper diagnosis. Remember you should never self-medicate.
If back pain is affecting your quality of life, at Premier Pain Doctors our highly-qualified doctors are here for you. If you want to know how we can help, just talk to us. Our staff will be happy to guide you every step of the way.
FAQ About Back Pain and Covid
What are other Omicron symptoms?
Omicron’s symptoms can be a little different than “regular” covid symptoms. They include a runny nose, dry cough, sore throat, and tiredness. It’s less common to experience loss of smell or taste with this covid variant.
Can I be sure I don’t have covid if my test results are negative?
Covid tests are not 100% accurate. In fact, some doctors recommend you take a second test a few days after a negative result, just to be sure you are covid-free.
How can I prevent back pain?
- Strengthen your back muscles by doing regular physical activity.
- Keep a good posture while working, sleeping, and lifting heavy objects.
- Watch your weight.
- Avoid smoking.
- Reduce stress.