The truth about long-term COVID pain

We are now in the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, wreaking havoc in hospitals, homes, and families nationwide. To date, over 50 million Americans have recovered from the virus, but 13 million of those survivors are reporting symptoms weeks or months after negative test results come back. This “long COVID,” as many call it, is both a mystery and great concern for researchers who believe the effects of the disease can be lifelong in some cases. 

Symptoms of Long-COVID

Long-term COVID symptoms are typically not as severe as symptoms during an active infection, but they can disrupt routines and make daily activities significantly more difficult. The top five reported symptoms from long-COVID include: 

  • Cough and shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Mental “fog” and headaches
  • Pain in the chest and joints
  • Loss of taste and smell

Long-COVID and Chronic Pain

Unfortunately, chronic pain is becoming increasingly reported among long-COVID patients. Reports show that the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is causing more back and muscle pain than previous variants, which could be contributing to this phenomenon. The inflammation caused by the virus, coupled with prolonged periods of bed rest, can all make back pain, joint pain, and general aches throughout the body worse over time. 

Inflammation is a common side effect in all types of viral infections, leading to flare-ups of existing conditions such as arthritis. If your pre-existing joint pain is worse now, it could be caused by the virus and may not go away for a long time. If this is the case, you need to contact your PPOA pain specialist to discuss options for your worsened arthritis or other chronic pain conditions. 

Ways to Lessen Long-COVID Symptoms

Long-COVID may feel like the worst thing in the world right now, but there are ways to speed your recovery and get your old lifestyle back. If you are struggling weeks or months after a negative test result, here’s what to do: 

Engage in light exercise

Preliminary research shows that light exercise can aid in lessening symptoms of fatigue and soreness and potentially improve breathing. Simple activities like yoga or walking around the block are recommended to help boost energy levels and mood—however, it’s essential to listen to your body and not over-exert yourself if exercise is too strenuous.

Limiting alcohol and caffeine intake

Alcohol and caffeine intake can disrupt your circadian rhythm, making the recovery process that much more complicated. Unfortunately, alcohol consumption is rising due to COVID-19, making prolonged sickness even worse. If you can, limit or avoid alcohol and caffeine altogether to ensure your body gets enough rest and can adequately recover. 

Quit smoking

Smokers often have a hard time recovering from COVID-19 because of the damage smoking does to your respiratory system. Quitting smoking is never a bad idea, but it is especially beneficial if you still suffer from COVID-19 symptoms. Even lessening your cigarette, e-cig, or other smoking device intake can help you recover faster. 

Eat healthily

It is no secret that processed, carb-rich diets can make anyone feel not their best, but this is especially true when battling illness. High-fiber diets along with plenty of protein and fresh foods can nourish your body for a faster recovery. 

Long-term COVID pain is serious. If none of these methods work for you, it may be time to talk to a specialist to determine the cause of your long-term symptoms. If you have pain questions or would like to speak to a doctor, contact your local PPOA office today.