Body aches are a common flu symptom that prevents us from moving around comfortably. When we have the flu, we feel sore, achy, and fatigued. But when it’s our back that starts aching, we lose more sleep and feel more worried that it might be related to other conditions.
So is it normal for patients to experience upper back pain when they have the flu? Most cases of back pain related to the flu are caused by the body’s natural inflammatory and immune response. However, patients who have pre-existing chronic upper back pain may experience more discomfort in their back because of both coughing and the body’s response to the flu.
Back pain is a common complaint for millions of Americans. It can be felt in different ways – mild, severe, dull, stabbing, chronic, or sudden. Back pain can be caused by either spinal conditions, accidents, and trauma, but it can also be a result of a common health condition like the flu virus.
Although upper back pain isn’t as common as lower back pain, it’s still a concern for many people – especially those who feel discomfort in their back whenever they catch the flu or start coughing. If you’re curious why patients experience upper back pain whenever they’re sick with the flu, here are some possible reasons:
When a person catches the flu, their body produces cytokines and chemokines that trigger inflammation as a natural immune response. Cytokines are cell-signaling proteins that help the body locate the immune cells and bond to them, combating the foreign substances in the body that cause the infection.
As a result of the body’s elevated levels of chemokines and cytokines, the patient experiences pains, aches, and fevers all over – including their upper back. These pains are actually signs that the body is doing what it’s supposed to do when a person is sick. Over time, the heat and inflammation subside, along with any fever or pain in the body.
Aside from inflammation caused by the body’s natural immune response, coughing is also another reason why people feel pain in their upper back. Big coughs and a series of heavy coughs put additional strain on the back muscles and ligaments, which become uncomfortable after some time.
Upper back pain isn’t always a cause of concern, especially if the patient experiences strain-inducing coughing spells or inflammation caused by the immune response. As an essential part of the body’s support structure, the spine naturally gets caught up in the symptoms that people feel when they’re sick.
People with a history of back pain because of previous trauma or certain spinal conditions are also more likely to experience severe upper back pain when they’re sick with the flu. Chronic upper back pain usually resurfaces along with typical flu symptoms because of the additional strain on the back or due to the production of cytokines found near the pain nerves.
Since the upper back pain patients experience when they’re sick with the flu is a result of the body’s reaction to a pathogen, the best way to treat it is by fighting the flu itself. Here are some ways to relieve upper back pain and other flu symptoms at home:
When we’re sick, our bodies work overtime to dispel any virus, bacteria, or other disease-causing agent. It places the body under additional stress as it heals itself. Pushing the body too hard only slows down the healing process and hinders recovery – so if you don’t rest when you’re sick, then you’re bound to sustain the inflammatory response and worsen the upper back pain.
Sleeping is one of the best ways to rest when the patient is sick with the flu because it regulates the immune functions needed for reducing inflammation and accelerating the healing process. It also helps to drink more water and electrolyte drinks when fighting flu symptoms since they contain all the essentials needed to keep the body healthy as it recovers.
Staying hydrated is critical to ensure that the body has all it needs as it heals, but it’s also essential for keeping the spine healthy. Dehydration can affect the structural integrity of spinal discs so it’s important to always consume the daily recommended water intake.
When people are sick, the body tends to lose more fluid because of excessive sweating, diarrhea, or vomiting. Drinking clear liquids helps restore lost fluids as the body fights the infection.
Hydration is also important in reducing inflammation in normal conditions, which makes water a lot more important when patients experience back pain and soreness. It’s also crucial to avoid liquids that may cause dehydration, like any beverage filled with sugar or alcohol.
Upper back pain caused by conditions like the flu can be treated by over-the-counter painkillers that contain ibuprofen or acetaminophen. However, it’s crucial to only take them as recommended by the doctor or the manufacturer to minimize the risk of different side effects.
It’s also crucial to remember that some people can’t take NSAID pain relievers immediately because of certain medical conditions. If you’re not sure which NSAID is safe to take because of certain health conditions, then talk to the primary care physician first to ask about what kind of pain reliever option is the best for you.
Bathing with hot or warm water loosens painful muscles and relieves body aches, which may alleviate upper back pain for some patients. But if the patient’s fever is still running high, then keep the water lukewarm to avoid increasing the body temperature.
If bathing or showering is out of the question, the next best things are heated blankets and heating pads. When placed along the upper back, these devices can relieve body aches and muscle tightness caused by the flu.
However, it’s important to watch the patient when using these devices because excessive heat may burn the skin. If they’re prone to falling asleep when using heating pads, consider using a timer to avoid accidents.
As the body heals, it’s crucial to ensure that the place where the patient rests provides optimal comfort for them. Whether it’s a plush sofa or a comfortable bed, it’s crucial to ensure that the place they sleep in doesn’t add more strain or pressure to the back. Aside from making sure that the place they lie in is soft enough for their comfort, another thing to consider is the spine alignment as they sleep.
Flu-induced upper back pain shouldn’t be a cause of concern for most patients because it goes away as soon as the body recovers from the condition. But if the upper back pain becomes severe during the time they’re sick, then it’s best to consult a primary care physician immediately.
If the upper back pain is still present even without the other flu-like symptoms, then it might be caused by another underlying medical condition. To experience optimal pain relief for upper back pain, it’s best to consult a pain expert immediately.
Upper back pain is a common symptom of flu – the body fights off the disease-causing virus, which triggers an inflammatory response that makes different parts of the body ache. But if the patient’s upper back pain worsens or persists after the flu has been treated, then it might be caused by another underlying condition that requires immediate medical attention.
At Gramercy Pain Center, we help our patients restore their pain-free lives by offering non-surgical pain treatments for the upper back and other body parts. To book an appointment and learn more about the best treatment plan for your upper back pain, call us today.