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.

Relief

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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Comments

  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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    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.

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