Does Covid cause back pain?

Woman holding backBack pain is emerging as a possible symptom of Covid-19. We are starting to see people who have reported unusually severe and persistent back pain after having Covid-19. Just because you have back pain, however, does not mean that you have Covid. So does Covid cause back pain?

Back pain due to Covid seems to occur later in the disease. It is unlikely to be an early symptom. It can even come on as you seem to be improving from the main symptoms of cough, shortness of breath, loss of smell and fatigue. Of course, if you had back pain before getting Covid, you can get it again and then the virus can make this worse.

How to tell if back pain is due to Covid

If you have had back pain before you will know what it feels like. Any back pain that is in an unusual site raises suspicion that Covid is the culprit.

Mel’s story

“I got occasional backaches but it was always in the middle and I would come to Sundial to get it sorted out. Then I went down with Covid. The symptoms were pretty mild – a bit tired and achy and a cough but I felt better after about two weeks. Then I started feeling really bad back pain in my hip on one side. It was like nothing I had felt before and went on for a month. Then it just went away.”

Back pain with Covid will feel different. It is likely to feel like a deep, intense pain rather than sharp, stabbing pain that often comes on with a joint or muscle spasm of ordinary back pain. Importantly, Covid back pain is less likely to ease with changes in posture. For instance, ordinary back pain often feels better when you’re lying down, standing or, less commonly, sitting. Covid back pain is likely to persist in all positions but may be worse in some positions.

Why does back pain with Covid happen?

The Covid virus creates its mayhem by increasing inflammation. If this inflammation settles in a back or pelvic joint then pain will be the result.

Another cause is not directly related to the virus but is caused by the inactivity it brings. If you feel unwell, tired and achy then you are likely to be less active. This lack of activity can bring on ordinary back pain and other joint and muscle stiffness. These aches and pains are then aggravated by Covid. Some people experience shoulder and arm problems after Covid too, especially if they have been in hospital.

But that’s not all. If you have a cough then it can strain your lower back. To feel the effect on your low back, stand up, place your hands on your lower back and cough gently. You should feel your low back give a little kick. Imagine this over and over again with a Covid cough and you can see why it irritates low back joints.

What can you do if you have back pain with Covid?

Covid related back pain does get better by itself but you can help along with some gentle exercises. These are great.


Important: if you get out of breath – ease up. Do fewer reps and for a shorter time.

If you want specific advice then book a video consultation with James, our physio.

During the day remember to change your posture regularly so you don’t seize up in one position. As you improve you can do more exercises like walking or using resistance bands. You could also follow our home exercise videos.

If your back symptoms are worsening or not getting better after 4 weeks then make an appointment to see our chiropractors or physio and we’ll assess you. If you have underlying joint locking or muscle spasm then these will need to be solved for the pain to go away.

 

 

Mel’s story is a composite of patient experiences to maintain confidentiality. Photo by mauro paillex on Unsplash