Can COVID-19 cause ongoing lower back pain?
The short answer — yes, COVID-19 can cause ongoing lower back pain that lasts long after your other symptoms disappear. If this is something you’re experiencing, you’re not alone. This question was one of the most searched questions on the internet for 2021 and 2022, and researchers are just now beginning to understand the correlation between ongoing back pain and COVID-19 infection.
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) initially listed body aches as a symptom of COVID-19, and not back pain specifically, many doctors started noticing an anecdotal pattern: A majority of their COVID-19 patients were complaining of lower back pain. This led to a number of research studies on why and how these two conditions go together.
So, why does lower back pain seem to go hand in hand with COVID-19 infections? Initially, lower back pain and muscle aches in general are not exclusive to just COVID-19 infections. There is a reason that body aches and chills are a common symptom of most viral infections: Viruses and infections can often trigger an inflammatory response in the body. The real question here is: Why does lower back pain in COVID-19 patients seem to linger much longer than other symptoms?
As of now, researchers are still narrowing down why lower back pain seems to be an ongoing symptom of COVID-19 infections. According to the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, here are the stats we know regarding back pain and COVID-19 taken from a study of 439 people who had tested positive at least six weeks earlier and 439 people who had never been infected:
- 24.4% of COVID-19 survivors said that they had lower back pain. Of this group, 93.5% claimed that the lower back pain was a new occurrence.
- Comparatively, only 15.7% of those who had not been infected claimed to have lower back pain.
This on its own is still inconclusive, so the study dug in deeper to figure out if there is a correlation between long lasting lower back pain and COVID-19, and — if there is — then why. While several studies across the world are noting the rise in lower back pain in COVID-19 patients compared to those who are not infected, there is also a rise in lower back pain simply due to the increase in remote work. In many countries that enforced strict lockdown restrictions, reports of lower back pain increased by 15% in some cases.
That being said, many researchers are still investigating the cause of ongoing lower back pain as a long-haul COVID-19 symptom, with several hypotheses circling around the ability of the virus to deregulate the body’s inflammatory response to infection. That means that, while the body does typically have an inflammatory response to viral infections, COVID-19’s ability to deregulate that response means that the inflammation in the body may be disproportionately larger compared to other infections. This would cause the inflammation to last longer, and one of the leading causes of muscle pain (and lower back pain) is inflammation. This theory is still being tested.
Treatment for ongoing lower back pain
If you are experiencing chronic lower back pain after your COVID-19 infection, you should schedule an appointment with a local physical therapist. Physical therapy is designed to help reduce the inflammation in your body and alleviate the chronic pains that are slowing down your life.
At Forever Fit Physical Therapy & Wellness, we will walk with you through a personalized treatment plan to help determine the cause of your lower back pain and the best movements to help you get back to your normal quality of life. Our physical therapists will work side by side with you to make sure you are progressing at the right pace, and to help guide you back to a life without chronic pain. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.