Why Does My Back Hurt When I Get Sick?

Category: Back Pain | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: April 28, 2022

Insomnia Back Pain

If you get a stomach bug or catch the flu, you may experience a number of different symptoms as your body works to rid itself of whatever is causing it problems. And while you may be spending a little extra time in the bathroom dealing with symptoms, another issue you may notice alongside the flu is back pain. Why is back pain such a common issue when you’re sick or battling a cold? In today’s blog, we explain why so many people deal with back pain as a side effect of the flu.

Back Pain And Sickness

Back pain is more common than you might imagine if you’re working to get over a cold, and there are a number of reasons why that can be the case. Here’s a look at some of the reasons why back pain can present alongside a cold.

  • Inflammatory Response – When your body is threatened by a virus or bacteria, your immune system goes into overdrive to help defeat this foreign entity. During this immune response, your body has elevated levels of certain molecules known as cytokines and chemokines. These molecules are developed by cells that are affected by the flu, and both of these molecules are pro-inflammatory, meaning they are likely to elicit an inflammatory response from your body. Inflammation can lead to the crowding of structures, and there are a number of key nerves that run along our spinal canal through small openings. If they become compressed and impinged, you can develop localized or radiating back pain.
  • Coughing – Another reason that back pain can develop when you’re sick is as a result of a strain while coughing. Anyone who has had a nasty cold has noticed that they may be coughing a lot more than normal, and coughing causes an intense contraction of muscles in your core and spine. If you are coughing a lot or you’re coughing intensely, you can actually strain a back muscle in the process, leading to pain and discomfort in the area.
  • Pneumonia-Related Issues – One of the more severe complications of the flu in older adults is the onset of pneumonia. Pneumonia leads to the inflammation of the air sacs within the lungs, which itself can cause mid-back discomfort. It can also lead to severe bouts of coughing, which as we touched on above can also lead to back injuries.

The good news is that when inflammation is the root cause of your back pain, treating the sickness typically leads to a resolution of the back issue. Focus on treating the flu or the infection instead of your spinal symptoms, and you’ll have more luck quelling your discomfort. If pain is the result of a pulled muscle caused by a coughing fit, taking care of your sickness can help to calm a cough and put less strain on the muscles, as can rest and activity modification. Again, symptoms usually resolve within a couple days of rest and protection so long as the sickness is also being treated.

So while you likely won’t need to visit a spine specialist to help with your back pain if you’re sick with the flu, if you believe your back issue is tied to a different problem in your spine, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi and the team at the Midwest Spine & Brain Institute today at (651) 430-3800.

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