It’s that time of year again. The air is chilly, we’re in the midst of the end of the year holidays — and an increase in virus cases is making headlines.
Viruses, including the flu and COVID, are a known cause of joint stiffness and pain and even arthritis. As experts continue to learn more about COVID symptoms and its long-term effects, several hypotheses seek to shed light on the ways this particular virus and ensuing joint pain may be related.
Two of the more common COVID symptoms reported include arthralgia (joint pain) and myalgia (muscle pain). Researchers in this study found that arthralgia and myalgia typically begin during the acute phase, when other COVID symptoms appear. They observed that 25 to 50 percent of COVID patients experience joint and muscle pain.
Some COVID-19 patients reported developing inflammatory arthritis, but researchers have not confirmed whether this arthritis was pre-existing or induced by the virus.
Patients who know they have pre-existing arthritis may find that COVID can worsen their symptoms.
Why Viruses Cause Joint Pain
Texas Orthopedics board certified orthopedic surgeon and joint replacement specialist Dr. W. Parker Abblitt explains that like rheumatologic conditions, viruses like COVID and the flu create systemic inflammation within the body.
“Whether it’s something shorter term like COVID or lifelong like a rheumatologic condition, inflammation is a large driver of joint pain,” Dr. Abblitt said.
When a person has a virus like the flu or COVID, their immune system jumps into action and creates a strong immune response to the attacking virus. Inflammation spreads widely through the body as a result of the immune system fighting the infection. The elevated inflammation throughout the body creates muscle and joint pain.
Joint pain unrelated to illness could be caused by several issues, including inflammatory or rheumatologic conditions, osteoarthritis or injury. Occasionally, mild to moderate osteoarthritis patients develop pain without any specific cause or injury.
Joint Pain Treatment
Patients who experience joint pain have several at-home treatment options. Solutions like heat, ice and some over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen or ibuprofen can provide temporary, symptomatic relief.
Some medications that can help with aches and pains can hide other symptoms like fever that could help diagnose the flu or COVID. So those experiencing viral symptoms should check with a doctor before turning to medicines like acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
Signs It’s Time to See a Professional
Several red flags indicate when it’s time to have a doctor look at joint pain. Any injury that limits ability to bear weight or use the extremity should be evaluated. Pain that continues and lasts for more than a few days and noticeably limits activities should be checked as well.
If you have questions about joint or muscle pain or would like to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, book online or call (512) 439-1000.