Does Omicron hurt your back?

key takeaways

  • People report back pain as a symptom of the Omicron variant.
  • Back pain is caused by a combination of fatigue or cough and poor posture/abnormal positioning caused by viral inflammation.
  • The best treatments for back and joint pain are anti-inflammatory medications and gentle stretching.

Many of us know the hallmark symptoms of COVID-19: fever, fatigue, and loss of smell and taste. With the Omicron variant, these symptoms changed slightly, including a runny nose and even a sore throat. But people are reporting another sign: back pain.

Omicron is now the main COVID-19 variant that appears in a slightly different way than the Delta or original strain, and many people pointed to back and joint pain as one of them.

Do Omicron COVID variants cause different symptoms?

Lifestyle changes may be the cause of back pain

Colin Haines, MD, a spine surgeon at the Virginia Spine Institute, FACS, MD, told VigorTip via email that back pain has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Interestingly, Omicron appears to be responsible for the highest rate of back pain to date.

“The COVID pandemic has led to an overall increase in back pain,” Haynes told VigorTip. “This is mainly due to poor ergonomics while studying and working from home, hunched over looking at screens and phones. Also, we are not as active as we used to be because we are living in our houses more than ever before inside.”

In addition to poor posture, many people experience pain from poor posture, Haynes said.

What does Omicron look like in a child?

“For the back to function properly, all core muscles have to work perfectly together, and if they don’t, it can lead to pain,” says Haynes. “Any muscle pain or imbalance can lead to back pain — we seem to see that at Omicron.”

Thomas McNally, MD, medical director of the Spine Center at Weiss Hospital’s Chicago Center for Orthopaedic and Robotic-Assisted Surgery, agrees.

“People were forced to move around,” McNally told Wiwell. “When we’re not moving around, we’re more prone to back pain if we spend more time in bed.”

In fact, much of the back and neck pain that occurs during an Omicron infection may be related to increased sleep volume due to fatigue, sleeping in an unfamiliar position to accommodate a cough, or otherwise putting the body in an uncomfortable position.

Inflammation may also be to blame

In addition to our now more sedentary lifestyles, the inflammatory nature of COVID-19 is a major cause of back and joint pain, Haynes said.

“Viral infections cause inflammation that wreaks havoc on our muscles and joints,” Haynes said.

While previous variants of COVID-19 caused severe inflammation in the lungs, inflammation can occur anywhere in the body, according to McNally. Pain occurs when inflammation subsides in the back muscles and joints.

What is a subvariant?What you should know about Omicron BA.2

While back pain may seem like an inconvenient but mild symptom, if it persists for more than a few days, whether related to COVID-19 or not, it could be a warning sign of a bigger problem, McNally said.

“Persistent high fever could be a spinal infection,” McNally said. Fever may be part of a COVID-19 infection, but it still requires close monitoring.

Other red flags are loss of bladder or bowel function or numbness in the legs, McNally said. If any of these symptoms occur, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.

what does this mean to you

If you’re experiencing back pain, gentle movement is the key to keeping your body relaxed and pain-free. Over-the-counter medications can also help relieve pain.

How to Treat Back Pain

Because inflammation can spread widely, McNally says taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs is the best course of action. Ibuprofen has been shown to help relieve pain and inflammation from COVID-19 infection with no ill effects.

“Walking around your neighborhood can help,” McNally said. “You should wait until you’re asymptomatic before doing any significant exercise because you don’t want to stress your body so it can heal from the infection.”

Most back pain can be relieved with anti-inflammatory medication and gentle stretching. Once you are symptom-free, simple exercises should help clear up back and joint pain completely.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means that you may have updated information as you read this article. For the latest updates on COVID-19, visit our Coronavirus news page.