The Link Between Back Pain And The Flu

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Every year millions of Americans take to bed stricken with the flu. The flu, known as influenza, is a nasty virus that is often accompanied by a series of unpleasant symptoms including nausea, fever, sore throat, fatigue, dry cough, runny nose and back pain.

Back pain? That’s right many flu sufferers often experience lower back pain as part of their flu symptoms. The back pain itself can run the gamut from an annoying discomfort to throbbing aches and tender skin. Although not all flu sufferers find their symptoms include back pain, those who do will suffer back pain as long as the flu virus persists. The good news is that as the flu virus works its way through the body, the intensity of the back pain will subside. 

Why Back Pain?

The most common question people want to know is why the flu causes pain the back when back pain is not a commonly accepted symptom of influenza. It’s no secret that aches and pains are common with the flu, it’s why we feel drained and achy constantly, but prolonged and severe back pain just isn’t typical.

In fact it is exactly those same aches and pains associated with the flu that cause such excruciating back pain for some. When you have the flu elevated levels of molecules known as cytokines and chemokines, which are created by cells affected by flu. Both cytokines and chemokines are pro-inflammatory which simply means they encourage inflammation. When the levels of both of these molecules are elevated higher than usual for influenza, severe back pain is often the result.

Pre-Existing Back Pain

While there are plenty of people who experience back pain during bouts of flu, there is another reason that back pain and flu are often linked; a history of back pain. If you have recently injured your back or suffer from chronic back pain, this pain will often resurface as part of flu symptoms. Again, those aches and pains commonly found in flu sufferers will bring out the back pain again.

Sometimes however the link between back pain and flu, is simply happenstance. The flu is a very common virus and many people suffer from the flu every single year. With high numbers in both populations it is quite likely they will overlap on occasion.


Seeking relief from flu symptoms can be accomplished by a visit to your primary care physician or over the counter medications. Many of these medications contain ingredients to fight specific symptoms include fever, aches & pains, and a dry cough. Unfortunately the pain killers found in flu medications will do scant little to help relieve severe back pain.

Before you can seek relief however, you need to visit your doctor to confirm that you have the flu rather than some other sickness. Because most flu symptoms are found in other illnesses like a kidney infection or urinary tract infection and sometimes a severe cold, you want to make sure the right sickness is being treated. Additionally if you do not have the flu, you definitely want to find out why you have severe back pain.

Flu-related back pain may require an additional set of medications. Whether you use traditional treatments for back pain or alternative treatments for back pain, relieving that pain is unlikely to be accomplished using flu meds. You don’t want to cause flu symptoms to worsen so treat back pain beginning with the least invasive forms of pain relief that will not slow down your flu recovery.

Obviously exercising is not an effective way to treat flu related back pain, but topical creams and painkillers are. Just make sure you’re not taking too much acetaminophen or ibuprofen, as these are often contained in flu medications. 

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  1. karen mathes says

    I just want to thank you for having an explanation of why my back is in so much pain. I am suffering from the flu and I just couldn’t understand why my back was hurting me so bad .

  2. John says

    Interesting. Whenever I get a flu, I feel a heavy discomfort in my back, maybe from my spine and also feel extreme cold. It stops after I take a pill and then I start sweating.

  3. Debbra says

    I am grateful for this information. I am three days into the flu and the back pain is awful. I am relieved to know that this too shall pass.

  4. Admin says

    Hi Christal,

    We feel that you may find our back pain book helpful and you can get a free copy using the link below.

    It has information to help you regarding the back, pain relief strategies, various treatment options and other many useful tips. We do hope you find it helpful.

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    Thank you
    Admin (THBI)

  5. Kevin Anderson says

    I’m glad this was clarified. When I’m coughing up this mucus just lying in bed my lower back kills me. I’m 45 moving and walking like I’m 95. I’ll be so glad when this is over.

  6. Deb says

    I have the flu also and my lower back has been killing me for 5 days now. I thought it might be a kidney infection or something. But yesterday a friend told me she has the same thing, and so does her cousin. So I guess it is just part of this rotten flu.
    Can’t wait for it to go away. I found that Icy hot roll on helps with the pain.

  7. Jim says

    I woke up the other day with SEVERE back pain. (I have l4-l5 fused) I suppose I had the flu because I vomited and had diarrhea, The pain was so intense that I had to go to the ER. As this ever happened to you?

  8. Dana says

    I can not tell you all how relieved I was to read your posts! The lower back pain has begun to freak me out as I feeI mostly on the road to recovery from the flu but now I am dealing with not being able to move! My sickness began on Tuesday morning feeling a little strange and by the afternoon I felt the need to lie down and really had no energy. It is now Sunday and I have finally turned a corner with the cough and fever and cold chills but beginning on Friday morning my lower back hurt so much that I felt (and still feel) like I could easily break in two! I tried to stretch and do some light yoga on a heating pad and still could not feel comfortable. Even child’s pose is uncomfortable. I am hoping and praying for relief soon! I feel like I have gone from 48 to 88 in one week!

  9. Liz says

    I also experienced TERRIBLE lower back pain with this flu. It is now day 5 of the flu and my back feels better – thank goodness! Now it’s all gone to my head and sinuses. I just want to feel better. It seems like it is a nasty flu strain this year.

  10. Julie Everson says

    I thought I was dying!! I’m glad to know that this severe lower back pain is a normal flu symptom. I’m getting my flu shot from now on I don’t care what they put in it. I’ve never been so sick. The first 3 nights I couldn’t sleep at all. These hot flashes are terrible I’m just sweating. The human condition is a fragile one for sure.

  11. Len Bodner says

    Glad I came across this page!! It answered my concern about the lower back pain that started yesterday with this flu I’ve had now going into the third day!! I thought maybe I pulled something when I had to take my dog out , but all I did was walk, so now I know why !! Thanks for the explanation ! To all that are ill, I hope you all get well soon!

  12. Paul says

    Glad to have found this confirmation of what I’ve been going through for the last few days. Started with a 101.5 fever and then the lower back/sciatic pain started. Can’t get comfortable in any position and the pain is constant and gets worse in waves. The onlu pa

    • Paul says

      pain medicine that helped was ibuprofen and the a cold pack. This has been one of the worst flu’s I’ve eber had. I have also started taking 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda in 6 oz water 3 times per day to reduce my inflammation so hopefully that will help. Other symptoms are bad headach across the forehead, painful sinuses and hot flashes/sweats. The fever was only a day and a half so maybe I’m on the mend.

  13. Meg7898 says

    Thanks so much for this info. My 16 year old son has what seems to be the flu. His back started hurting really bad all over and then today moved to his lower back. I was starting to worry that it was his kidneys.
    I am sure he will start feeling better in a few days. He is only on Day 4.
    I would be leery of a flu shot myself. I heard that the strain of virus people were getting in the flu shot was completely the wrong one so was totally inefective. I have also heard recently that several seemingly healthy people died right after receiving the flu shot.
    I think the best course is to keep a strong immune system and then treat with herbs, good nutrition, homeopathy, should one still get sick.
    I got it too and am 8 months pregnant, age 41 and it wasn’t too bad. I took a ton of vitamin C, D, Cod Liver Oil, Coconut oil, fruits, veggies, echinacea, garlic. My was gone in a week with nothing too serious. I ALWAYS refuse the flu shot. Way too many toxic ingredients including mercury, which has been proven very dangerous for the unborn as well as a cause of alzheimers.

  14. emmo says

    Hi guys,

    I’m over the flu since last week, but I now have lower back pain, and pain along the back of my thighs, and in all my joints. The pain is enough to wake me up at night, and to interrupt my working day, but a couple of paracetamol are enough to banish it for the day.

    This particular strain of flu started on a Sunday afternoon, and I felt I was recovering (=able to do a proper day’s work) by Friday. Today is the following Tuesday, and although I feel great now, I’m hobbling around like an old man.


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