Is back pain a symptom of Covid-19? Here’s what an expert says

Covid-19 is a respiratory infection that typically results in symptoms like fever, cold, cough and fatigue. However, an increasing number of people are also complaining of body aches like headaches and lower back pains after getting infected by the virus.

According to Dr Charu Dutt Arora, Consultant- Home Care, Covid expert and Medical services, Asian Institute of Medical Sciences, Faridabad, back pain is one of the most common symptoms of Covid-19. “Although people believe that Covid-19 is mainly a respiratory virus and causes only infection of the lungs, there have been multiple studies in the West which have shown that 63 per cent of the patients infected by the Delta variant and 42 per cent of the patients infected by the Omicron variant have reported back pain as one of the major symptoms,” he said.

The three major areas of the body where people have experienced pain during the infection, are the head, lower back and muscles. “The muscle pain is mainly around the knee area,” Dr Arora explained.

How does Covid-19 lead to lower back pain?

Covid-19 infection stimulates the release of a hormone called cytokines, which is pro-inflammatory in nature, Dr Arora said. “Cytokines leads to the formation of a prostaglandin known as E2, which activates all the pain receptors in the body.”

“This is like a signal pathway from the cytokines to the prostaglandin E2 which further activates the pain pathway. This is why these three areas hurt during Covid-19.”

How long can it persist?

Headache and lower back pain are among the first few symptoms of the virus. “A patient experiences it in the first 4-5 days of getting infected,” the expert said.

Calling it one of the most common symptoms of ‘long Covid‘, he highlighted that the back pain, however, can persist for even six to nine months after recovery. “It is mainly due to the inflammatory response caused by the Covid-19 virus,” he said.

The persistence of the pain long after the recovery is the side-effect of the cytokines. “You can kill the virus in the body but the inflammatory response that has happened during the infection can persist depending on the immune response of the patient,” he told

If the patient has good immunity, they can get relieved from the pain earlier and vice versa, the expert argued.

Here’s what you need to do

Dr Arora asked patients to consult a doctor in case of persistent back pain during and after Covid-19. Additionally, he suggested staying away from physical or strenuous exercises and following the ‘step-ladder pattern’ after the recovery.

Explaining the method, he said, “It means increasing your physical activities by 30 per cent every two weeks. That means, if you were doing 100 steps before Covid, you should start with 30 steps. After two weeks, increase it to 60 and to 90 after another two weeks.”

“Get your blood tests done every two to four weeks to check for any possible inflammation happening inside your body. Deep breathing exercises must be followed as they give a lot of tone to your back and abdominal muscles,” he concluded.

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