You’ve had the flu before, so most of the symptoms are not anything new. There’s that unsettling rumbling in the stomach coupled with a runny nose, a high temperature, and a cough that won’t go away.
This time around, there’s something a little different. You notice that your lower back is hurting… a lot. Could it have anything to do with the flu? In fact, there’s a good chance that’s exactly what’s causing the discomfort.
How is the Flu and Lower Back Pain Related?
Considering how many symptoms the flu shares with the common cold, all the other things you’re experiencing makes sense. What gets you is how the flu could have an impact on your back. When you think about it, the real wonder is that you didn’t have back pain the last time the flu struck.
Remember that the flu is a virus. As it moves through your body, it causes inflammation in the muscles and other tissues. That’s why your joints all over your body ache a little and you feel so tired.
As the virus settles in the back for a short stay, the muscles stiffen and place more tension on the discs. The nerve endings will also react to the stress, causing anything from dull ache to a constant throbbing. As the virus continues to move through your body, the back pain will eventually subside.
Your next question may be how the flu virus has the ability to create the muscle stiffness and cause the pain. That has to do with the way the virus causes the number of chemokines and cytokines in your body to increase. Chemokines are actually smaller cytokines. Both are proteins that encourage cell movement in the body.
These proteins do increase the potential for inflammation. Under normal circumstances, this isn’t a bad thing. It’s only when the flu virus causes your body to produce more of these proteins that the problems start. In this case, the inflammation settles in different parts of your body, including the lower back.
So What Can You Do About the Flu?
The flu virus will run its course over time. Unfortunately, there is no medication that will stop the flu in its tracks. The best you can hope for is obtaining some type of medicine that will help weaken the virus. Coughing or sneezing only makes the back pain worse so the less time you have to deal with that, the better.
While that’s hardly a solution, it could mean your symptoms will improve sooner rather than later. Specifically, many of the anti-viral medicines available by prescription will help stabilize that queasy stomach and may have some small impact on the fever.
The best way to wage war on the flu is just what your grandmother told you. There’s the need for plenty of bed rest, and drink fluids until you think that there’s no way you can hold one more sip. It’s a matter of waiting out the virus as it flares, weakens, and finally gets squashed by your immune system.
And the Lower Back Pain?
While it may not seem like it, using different methods to weaken the flu virus is indirectly helping with your back. As the flu weakens, you should notice that your back is not quite as painful. Even so, that doesn’t mean you have to lay in bed and put up with the discomfort.
Your first thought may be to take some kind of anti-inflammatory medicine, maybe even an over the counter product. Before you do that, check with your doctor. The goal is to make sure there’s nothing in that product that will adversely interact with any anti-virus medication you may already be taking.
Your doctor is likely to recommend the use of some kind of topical agent. Apply it liberally to your lower back and allow the heat generated to loosen some of the tightness in your muscles. There’s also the possibility of using a heating pad to get some relief. Remember that one thing you want to avoid is applying the cream and then adding the heating pad to the mix. In this instance, more is not better.
A large heating pad is another great option as long as you don’t have a fever. It will help your muscles relax and reduce other symptoms of the flu or cold to make it more tolerable.
If the back pain persists after the other symptoms subside, talk with your doctor. There may be something else going on that needs attention.