Coronavirus symptoms: Are you suffering with back pain? The lesser-known sign of COVID-19

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With a vaccine in sight, it seems symptoms of COVID-19 have been put aside yet reports on strange and uncomfortable symptoms caused by a COVID-19 infection continue. Experiencing back or muscle pain could indicate early infection. While body aches and pain can be the result of pretty much anything, it turns out coronavirus-related muscle pain is a bit different. How?

A World Health Organisation (WHO) report which analysed 55,924 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in China, found that 14.8 percent of patients reported myalgia or arthralgia (joint pain).

This is significantly less than the number of patients who reported a fever (87.9 percent) and dry cough (67.7 percent), and still less common than other symptoms like fatigue (38.1 percent) and shortness of breath (18.6 percent).

It is, however, slightly more common than a sore throat (13.9 percent), headache (13.6 percent), and chills (11.4 percent).

What is myalgia

Myalgia describes muscle aches and pain, which can involve ligaments, tendons and fascia, the soft tissues that connect muscles, bones and organs.

John Hopkins Medicine explained: “Injuries, trauma, overuse, tension, certain drugs and illness can all bring about myalgia.

“The symptoms can include muscle cramps and joint pain.

“Diagnosis requires careful clinical evaluations of muscle cramps and joint pain.”

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In a study published in the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, COVID-19 infection-causing myalgia was investigated. 

The study noted: “Myalgia is a common symptom in patients with viral infections such as novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and influenza.

“Back pain in COVID-19 may usually indicate pneumonia. Why is the common myalgia caused by COVID-19 longer and more severe than myalgia of other viral infections?

“Myalgia and fatigue in patients with COVID-19 may be longer in duration than other viral infections and may be unresponsive to conventional painkillers.

“According to our observation, when viral load is reduced with virus treatment, muscle pain may decrease.

“In addition to the classic mechanisms of myalgia known in viral infections, COVID-19 can cause musculoskeletal pain with completely different mechanisms.

“COVID-19 enters the cell by penetrating ACE2 at low cytosolic pH and causes infection in the pulmonary system.

“The presence of ACE2 has also been demonstrated in the brain, kidney, vascular smooth muscle, and skeletal muscles.

“The virus can spread through the bloodstream or vascular endothelium and cause infection in all tissues containing ACE2 such as the heart and brain.

“Therefore, the musculoskeletal system can also undergo infection.”

According to Richard Watkins, M.D., infectious disease physician and professor of internal medicine at the Northeast Ohio Medical University, viral infections cause muscle pain as a by-product of activating the immune response.

It is “a result of cells of the immune system releasing interleukins, which are proteins that help in the fight against invading pathogens,” he said.

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