Lower Back Pain COVID

With so many people having had COVID we are now starting to deal with the aftereffects of having COVID-19. There seem to be many symptoms that occur during COVID and even more symptoms that occur after recovering from COVID. Many people are reporting that they had no severe symptoms when they were diagnosed with COVID but months later they still suffering from the effects of COVID.

One of the more common symptoms of COVID is back pain. COVID back pain is something that can happen while you have COVID and can last far beyond after you test negative. The difficulty lies in differentiating COVID back pain from back pain that occurs because of other things going on in the body.

First what COVID back pain is not.  COVID back pain is not:

  • Back pain that started 6 months prior to ever being diagnosed with COVID.  While having COVID may exacerbate the back pain, you cannot place the blame on your back pain solely on COVID if you had back pain soreness, stiffness, or pain prior to being diagnosed with COVID.
  • Back pain that goes down your leg. Often back pain can be associated with pain that goes into your butt and travels down your leg and sometimes even into your foot. This is not a symptom of COVID back pain. This is a severe warning that there is something that is going on with your back and you need to get it treated.
  • Back pain that causes numbness or tingling. If you have numbness or tingling that goes into your leg or foot that is not a symptom of COVID back pain. Again, that is a serious issue that you do not want to ignore.
  • Back pain that you get after a long car ride or sitting too long. You will not just feel back pain after sitting for too long and be able to say that it is a symptom of COVID. If you sit for too long or drive for too long or wake up with back pain, this is a sign of something else going on with your back. If you go to stand up and you experience back pain that again is a sign that there is something going on with your back that you need to have treated.
  • Sharp stabbing pain that occurs only occasionally during certain positions. If you bend over and go to stand up and there is a sharp stabbing pain that happens in your lower back, that is not a result of COVID, that is something that needs to be fixed in your back.
  • Pain that is located only on one side of the low back. Pain that happens on one side of the lower back is a sign that there is something in your everyday life that you are doing to cause the one side of your back to hurt and it is important to figure out what that imbalance is and correct it before it gets worse.

COVID back pain IS:

  • A constant stiffness/soreness that no matter how much you move or what you do to make it feel better there just seems to be a constant ache.
  • Pain/stiffness/ache that goes across both sides of the lower back and can also go into the upper back especially if there were periods of labored breathing.
  • An ache that can be felt all over, a feeling of sickness and just feeling like your back is ‘tired’
  • A symptom that can be associated with having COVID, typically not the only symptom but sometimes can be.
  • Back pain that usually goes away within 2-4 weeks.

While no symptoms of COVID are to be ignored, we must differentiate between what is being caused by COVID and what is not. There is not much treatment that can occur for back pain that you are suffering during being positive for COVID. That period of 2-4 weeks where you are testing positive and have a symptom of back pain is not something that is treatable.  However, we are finding that the effects of having COVID are lasting far beyond the 2–4-week positive testing period and this is the back pain that is treatable.

Back pain that goes on for weeks and even months causes compensation patterns to develop that will worsen your back pain.  While your back pain may have started because of COVID, your back is now hurting for entirely different reasons that you need to get treated. Knots in the muscles, weakness, compensation strategies are all things that are occurring because of COVID and are all things that are treatable.

Also, regardless of whether you tested positive for COVID or not, we were 50% less active last year than previous years based on activity levels tracked by our cell phones. Being sedentary puts tremendous strain on our bodies and causes us to have pain in the neck, upper back, and lower back. This has nothing to do with a positive or negative COVID diagnosis and everything to do with problems that you need to address. Putting off addressing pain that you are having is only going to lead to worse problems later. Ignoring your pain or treating with at home remedies can work for a while but in the end, it will catch up with you and wind up costing you more money and time later.

Another impact we are seeing from COVID as it relates to not only lower back pain but upper as well is the effect COVID has on your lungs and the ability to breathe. Whether you had any symptoms of COVID or not, many are reporting difficulty returning to prior activity levels due to exhaustion and decreased ability to breathe.  When you are having a hard time breathing you will begin to recruit muscles in the low back and upper back to help get in air. This can cause tremendous pain in your upper and lower back. The longer this persists the worse the pain can become, and it also can have lasting effects on your ability to breathe if left untreated.

Do not assume you have COVID because you have back pain and do not brush off your back pain because you think it is just a side effect of COVID. Both are very serious and knowing what to look for is imperative in making a full recovery for both.  Back pain that is persisting beyond 4 weeks is not due to COVID. It may have started because of COVID but is still lingering because of other causes that you need to have treated. Having the best recovery for both means getting treatment as soon as you can.

If you or someone you know is suffering from the aftereffects of COVID-19 and lives in Bucks or Montgomery County PA and wants a free consultation with a Doctor of Physical Therapy, just call our office at 215-997-9898 or click here to enter your information and we will be happy to get you in!


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