Lower back pain could affect up to a quarter of COVID-19 survivors
Clinics should prepare for an increase in people seeking treatment for lower back pain in the aftermath of COVID-19 infection, researchers warn.
- 2 September 2022
- 3 min read
- by Linda Geddes
Up to a quarter of people who are recovering from COVID-19 may be experiencing lower back pain, new data suggests.
Although previous research has suggested that back pain may be a relatively common symptom during the initial stages of infection – particularly in the Omicron era – the extent to which low back pain affects people during their recovery was less certain.
The research found that 24.4% of COVID-19 survivors reported lower back pain, compared to 15.7% of people who hadn’t been infected.
To investigate, Mohammad Ali and colleagues at the Uttara Adhunik Medical College and Hospital in Dhaka, Bangladesh, interviewed 439 people who had tested positive for COVID-19 at least six weeks earlier, plus another 439 individuals who hadn’t been infected. They were asked about the symptoms they had experienced during the initial stages of infection, and whether they had experienced any lower back pain over the past month.
The research, published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, found that 24.4% of COVID-19 survivors reported lower back pain, compared to 15.7% of people who hadn’t been infected. Overall, 93.5% of survivors reporting lower back pain claimed it was a new problem, or that their pre-existing problem had worsened after catching COVID-19.
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Further statistical analysis suggested that SARS-CoV-2 infection was a strong independent predictor of lower back pain, and that survivors with low education or low income, those living in rural areas, those with extended families, or those who had been previously been diagnosed with high blood pressure were more likely to be affected. Some of these individuals may be engaged in farming or heavy lifting and are thus more prone to back pain, the researchers suggested, although they didn’t specifically investigate this.
“The results forecast an upcoming wave of low back pain burden among the general population worldwide after the pandemic era.”
“Remarkably, participants with moderate COVID-19 reported low back pain at a significantly higher rate,” they said.
Although it’s not entirely clear why COVID-19 survivors are experiencing back pain, one possibility is that the infection sets up a dysregulated immune response, which leaves individuals more susceptible to experiencing pain, Ali and his colleagues suggested. Spinal muscle weakness could also be a contributing factor.
“The results forecast an upcoming wave of low back pain burden among the general population worldwide after the pandemic era,” the researchers said, adding that early diagnosis and treatment could help to prevent further complications, or back pain becoming a chronic problem.