Cold and back pain
Everyone knows the typical symptoms of a cold: your nose is runny, your throat is scratchy and your head is buzzing. But back pain can also occur. Unfortunately, this is not unusual and, given the high number of colds in Germany, affects some patients. The back pain is often in the lower back area (so-called lumbar spine), or in the neck or shoulder area.
Neck or shoulder pain are often accompanied by severe restrictions on movement, in which case the head can hardly be moved to the affected side. If the head is not moved, the pain itself is usually bearable. If the back pain is in the lumbar spine, it is often the other way round: Then the pain is often stronger at rest, but does not restrict movement as much.
Why do colds and back pain occur so often together?
In fact, many doctors find that back pain is more common with colds. It is still not clear why this is so. However, there are different approaches that explain the phenomenon. One thing is certain: if you have a cold, your immune system is weakened, as is your general well-being is usually worse than usual. In addition, people with a cold usually exercise less, especially if they are so bad that they stay in bed or on the sofa during the day. The first theory is derived from this: Little movement and poor mental health are two risk factors for back pain.
Another hypothesis assumes that back pain and colds go hand in hand so often because they can have the same trigger: stress. In the event of stress, the immune system is permanently downregulated, making the body more susceptible to infections. The fact that stress can also cause back pain is already well known and is nothing new for many of those affected.
In addition to the above theories as to why back pain and cold so often occur together, back pain with colds can also have other causes. A common cause is tension in the back muscles. This tension can be caused by coughing or sneezing because a number of muscles in the chest and back are involved in these movements. If these muscles are overused, tension can occur here - be it through persistent or particularly strong coughing. Such tension can also occur when sleep is worse than usual - as can also be the case with a cold - and as a result, the back muscles can no longer relax properly at night.
If you have caught a particularly bad cold, general muscle pain can also occur. This can often be felt in the back and buttocks area and can in itself lead to back pain.
In rare cases, serious illnesses such as pneumonia or pleurisy can cause back pain. Therefore, if you have a cold with back pain, you should always consult a doctor in the following cases:
1. If there is a fever over 38.5 ° C, shortness of breath or a severe feeling of illness
2. When the back pain continues to worsen or does not improve within a few days even after the cold
3. If the cold symptoms do not improve within a week
Also read the article: Causes of back pain.
Other accompanying symptoms
A cold with back pain can cause a number of other symptoms. Of course, any of the typical cold symptoms can occur, including: runny nose, sore throat, hoarseness, headache, feeling sick and, later on, often coughing. A real fever above 38.5 ° C, on the other hand, is rather rare with a simple cold, so a doctor should always be consulted if a high fever occurs.
If muscle pain is the cause of the back pain, general body aches can also occur. These are often located in the buttocks area, but can also be in the extremities (arms and legs). In addition, headaches can occur particularly often with neck or shoulder pain. This is because the neck or shoulder pain can radiate into the head.
For more information, read on: Symptoms of a cold.
The neck pain during a cold
Neck pain is particularly common with a cold. Neck pain can occur especially with a sore throat associated with a cold. Usually it is a harmless side effect that disappears on its own. But it can also be a sign of a more serious illness. In the case of severe neck pain with neck stiffness, it should be checked whether fever and photophobia also occur. This can be an indication of inflammation of the meninges, which particularly affects people with a weakened immune system. This can be children and adolescents, old people, or people with an underlying disease such as AIDS. Meningitis is extremely rare in immunocompetent adults in Germany, but must be treated immediately if it does.
Find out more about the topic here: Meningitis symptoms.
The toothache during a cold
Toothache with a cold with back pain are not uncommon. If the teeth hurt with a cold, the reason can be very simple: Before the cold, the immune system had a small carious infection under control, but is now additionally attacked by the cold and the caries can spread further and it comes to pain.
Sinusitis can also lead to toothache and is particularly common after or during colds. This is due to the fact that with sinusitis the so-called maxillary sinuses also become painfully inflamed and radiate into them due to their proximity to the teeth. Toothache and back pain can also be directly related, so a clarification should be carried out if the back pain associated with the toothache persists beyond the cold.
Also read the article: Sinus infection and toothache.
The earache with a cold
If earache also occurs during a cold with back pain, it is often a so-called tube catarrh. Then the canal that ventilates the middle ear (so-called Eustachian tube) swells and there is a painful negative pressure in the ear. This can occur in the context of an otitis media, but also alone. This diagnosis is then ideally made by an ear, nose and throat doctor, but many general practitioners can also perform an otoscopy (examination of the ear).
But it can also be that uncomplicated headaches radiate into the ear area and there is no disease of the ear itself. If there is pain in the ear when swallowing, it is usually a radiation from the throat area into the ear. Please read the paragraph "Sore Throat" below.
For more information, see: The otitis media.
The pain in the limbs of a cold
Body aches and pains often go hand in hand with a cold. However, these are usually relatively mild. If there is severe pain in the limbs, there is a suspicion of a more serious illness, such as real flu (influenza).
Pain in the limbs is caused by the fact that the body releases so-called inflammatory mediators when a virus is infected. These ensure that the body can better defend itself against the viruses - but they also have the disadvantage that the body becomes more sensitive to pain. This results in pain in the limbs and muscles, which can also show up in the form of back pain.
The symptoms of the flu? Read more about this here.
The sore throat with a cold
Sore throats are often associated with neck pain or shoulder pain when you have a cold. Often this is a harmless side effect, the neck, neck and shoulder pain go away on their own.
In rare cases, however, the pain can also be a sign of a more serious illness. Acute tonsillitis can cause severe pain in the throat, especially when swallowing. In a more severe course with so-called abscess formation, the bacteria can also settle in other areas. This can lead to throat, neck or jaw pain.
If you have a cold with back pain, the two diseases must be treated individually. The common cold should be clarified by a doctor if it does not improve over several days or if there is a high fever.
Uncomplicated back pain, i.e. back pain without a serious cause, usually improves with movement. It should be noted, however, that the common cold must always be kept in mind. Exercise that is too strenuous for your circulation or that makes you sweat should be avoided. A good example of relaxed exercise would be a walk or yoga.
Fresh air is also helpful in fighting the common cold, as long as you don't dress too coolly. A massage or a treatment with heat, for example with warm compresses, can also be tried out for back pain.
Find out all about the topic here: Therapy for a cold.
The medication for a cold with back pain
When choosing medication, you have to distinguish between back pain itself and the common cold. The same medication can sometimes be used for uncomplicated back pain as well as a cold: the typical pain relievers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol. This is because most of these drugs, with the exception of paracetamol, belong to the group of so-called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs - also called NSAIDs.
These generally work against pain and inflammation. In this way, both back pain and other pain such as headaches or body aches can be treated at the same time. The anti-inflammatory component also relieves other cold symptoms.
The home remedies for a cold with back pain
In general, back pain can be relieved with a massage. This can be done dry or with oil. If there is a cold at the same time, it is advisable to work with a suitable oil or ointment. In this way, the symptoms of the common cold can be alleviated at the same time. Examples of this would be mint oil, pine or spruce needle oil. These or others are also often mixed up in cold ointments. When rubbing in, some of the essential oils are inhaled - this widens the airways and secretions can be coughed up or cut off more easily.Local rubbing also improves blood circulation in the area on the back where the active ingredient is massaged. This can relieve back pain, especially if it is due to tension.
A warm bath can also be very beneficial for both a cold and back pain. And here, too, you can try using different bath additives to achieve an effect similar to that of rubbing in. The active ingredients that are added in bath additives are often the same as in cold balm or similar.
However, when using essential oils, some people also experience allergic reactions, such as skin rashes. Therefore, it should always be checked beforehand whether there is an allergy to components. In addition, some back pain becomes worse when warmth is added - this can be an indication that the back pain has an inflammatory cause. Then heat therapy should be discontinued.
Find out all about the topic here: Home remedies for a cold.
Homeopathy for a cold with back pain
There are also homeopathic remedies that are used equally for back pain and colds. Probably the best known is the so-called nux vomica, which is obtained from the so-called nugget. Aconitum apellus, the blue monkshood, is also used for colds and back pain.
Also read the article: Naturopathy for a cold.
Both a cold and back pain shouldn't last longer than a week. If the symptoms haven't gone away after a week, they should at least have improved a lot. If the cold or back pain persists or does not improve or even worsens over time, a doctor should definitely be consulted.
Other reasons to see a doctor would be a high fever or a severe feeling of illness. Even if pronounced stiff neck occurs or neurological symptoms such as numbness or paralysis occur, a hospital must be visited immediately.
Duration of a cold? Find out more here.