Life After Covid: Treating Muscle Fatigue And Weakness
One thing is certain: COVID-19 affects people in different ways. The majority will experience mild to moderate symptoms, including a fever, a dry cough, and tiredness. Some will also have muscular aches and pains, a sore throat, a stomach upset, headaches, conjunctivitis, the loss of taste or smell, or a skin rash. An unfortunate one in five COVID-19 patients will develop more serious symptoms, including difficulty breathing, chest pain, loss of muscle control, severe inflammation, and organ damage.
While most people are fully aware of the severity of COVID-19, there has been less focus on its long-lasting impact. Four weeks after their initial diagnosis, many patients are still struggling with long-term COVID symptoms. These include:
- Ongoing muscle weakness
- Respiratory symptoms
- Cognitive issues
In addition to their physical symptoms, many COVID-19 patients are finding life after COVID emotionally grueling. Recovering COVID-19 patients may experience debilitating mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, isolation, and dementia.
While anyone can experience the long-term symptoms of COVID-19, some people are particularly susceptible to the condition becoming known as long COVID:
- People who are severely overweight or obese
- People with high blood pressure
- People with a pre-existing mental health condition
What Causes Numbness And Tingling
Lumbar spine problems can cause symptoms of tingling and numbness in the lower extremities. Many patients expect that problems in the lumbar spine should cause symptoms of back pain. However, some of the most common symptoms of a lumbar spine problem are experienced in the lower extremities.
One important function of nerves is to provide information about sensations from the body to your brain. When these signals are damaged, interrupted, or irritated, the sensations can be experienced abnormally. This can manifest as sensations of numbness, tingling, prickling, or other abnormalities of the skin.
In many common spine conditions, these nerves that travel to your brain are pinched or compressed. This pressure on the nerve can cause abnormal sensations, commonly experienced as tingling or numbness.
When the nerve that runs from your foot to your brain is pinched, you may experience a numb footeven if that nerve is pinched all the way up in your back. This is the same reason your hand experiences tingling when you bump your funny bone.
Or You Could Be Dying What Are The Odds That Back Pain Is Something Scary
Of course there are cases of low back pain that have alarming causes, but its reassuringly rare. Once in a while back pain is a warning sign of cancer, autoimmune disease, infection, or a handful of other scary culprits.7 Over the age of 55, about one in twenty cases turns out to be a fracture, and one in a hundred is more ominous.8 The further you are from 55, the better your odds.
But how can you tell? It can be tricky. This is a concise, readable guide to symptoms that need better-safe-than-sorry investigation with your doctor. In other words, this article explains the difference between dangerous and just painful as clearly as possible. Tables, checklists, and examples ahead.
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Chronic Low Back Pain Is Serious But Rarely Ominous
Back pain can suck the joy out of your days for week, months, even years. It can definitely be serious even when its not dangerous. I have worked with many truly miserable chronic low back pain patients, and of course the huge economic costs of back pain are cited practically anywhere the subject comes up. But your typical case of chronic low back pain, as nasty as it can be, has never killed anyone.
Ominous is medical jargon for truly scary. Cue Jaws theme music. Low back pain is ominous when it is caused by something that can cripple or kill you. Such causes are rare, fortunately. But awful things do happen, even the best doctors can miss them .
Ordinary back pain can be fierce & awful but not dangerous. Its bark is almost always much louder than its bite.
Changes To Physical Activity
Another way of managing the fatigue from spinal stenosis is by changing your physical routine. While a lot of this can be managed with consistent physical therapy, small lifestyle changes and exercise can help with chronic fatigue.
However, its important to keep in mind the activities for people to deal with chronic fatigue should not be confused with the usual exercise that most people go through. This is because most of these exercises arent designed for the specific needs of spinal stenosis patients, and neither are they effective in addressing fatigue. It can also be ineffective with cases that involve surgery.
What your doctor will most likely recommend is a personalized course of Graded Exercise Therapy . These exercises progress from low-intensity activities to moderately paced ones with the goal of conditioning the body to establish a threshold where it can conduct physical activity efficiently and without overexerting your muscles.
These exercises can be performed with physical therapy, but theyre most often performed by patients at home. However, its still crucial that they be accompanied by someone who can keep track of their progress or help them when things go wrong, especially if theyre much older. None of these exercises are supposed to be physically demanding, but its best to have someone nearby for safety precautions.
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The Big Three Signs That You Should Investigate For An Ominous Cause Of Persistent Low Back Pain
You shouldnt worry about low back pain until three conditions have been met:
The presence of the big three does not confirm that something horrible is going on. It only means that you need to check carefully.
Andy Whitfield as Spartacus
At his physical peak, not long before getting sick. The first sign of his cancer was steadily worsening back pain. He may have already been in pain at this time.
The story of actor Andy Whitfield is a disturbing and educational example of a case that met these conditions for sure the first two, and probably the third as well if we knew the details. Whitfield was the star of the hit TV show Spartacus . The first sign of the cancer that killed him in 2011 was steadily worsening back pain. Its always hard to diagnose a cancer that starts this way, but Whitfield was in the middle of intense physical training to look the part of historys most famous gladiator. Back pain didnt seem unusual at first, and some other symptoms may have been obscured. Weight loss could have even seemed like a training victory at first! It was many long months before he was diagnosed not until the back pain was severe and constant. A scan finally revealed a large tumour pressing against his spine.
Is back pain a symptom of COVID-19?
Whats New In This Article
Fourteen updates have been logged for this article since publication . All PainScience.com updates are logged to show a long term commitment to quality, accuracy, and currency. moreWhens the last time you read a blog post and found a list of many changes made to that page since publication? Like good footnotes, this sets PainScience.com apart from other health websites and blogs. Although footnotes are more useful, the update logs are important. They are fine print, but more meaningful than most of the comments that most Internet pages waste pixels on. I log any change to articles that might be of interest to a keen reader. Complete update logging of all noteworthy improvements to all articles started in 2016. Prior to that, I only logged major updates for the most popular and controversial articles.See the Whats New? page for updates to all recent site updates.
2020 Minor science update, added a citation to a cancer case study.
2020 Added information about back pain as a symptom of COVID-19.
2018 Cited Premkumar et al on red flag reliability .
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Numb Leg From Alternate Sources
If leg numbness exists without lower back pain, then the diagnostic possibilities open up to include many other possible causations. Locating the exact source of symptoms can be a time consuming process to be sure. Numbness in the leg or legs can also occur due to many other potential causes, including any or all of the following conditions:
Cervical spinal stenosis or thoracic spinal stenosis can cause weakness and numbness in the legs, as well as the inability to stand or walk. We see obvious severe cervical stenosis as the cause of many leg symptoms, although in some patients, this cause is never even investigated, due to the existence of scapegoat lumbar issues which take the blame, while remaining completely innocent.
Numbness can come from pseudo-sciatica, including piriformis muscle-enacted compression of the sciatic nerve or compression of the nerve by a tumor or cyst.
Leg numbness can be caused by a disease process, a neuromuscular disorder or other systemic cause, although it is rare that numbness will be the exclusive symptom expressed.
Numbness might result from localized nerve tissue injury or disease in part of the leg.
Numbness can come about due to circulatory problems that might affect one or both legs and may be further complicated by specific factors that might relieve or exacerbate the symptomology, such as position of the legs or body.
Help for a Leg Numbness
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How Can I Feel Less Tired
Some changes to your lifestyle can make you feel less tired. Here are some suggestions:
- Keep a fatigue diary to help you find patterns throughout the day when you feel more or less tired.
- Exercise regularly. Almost anyone, at any age, can do some type of physical activity. If you have concerns about starting an exercise program, ask your doctor if there are any activities you should avoid. Moderate exercise may improve your appetite, energy, and outlook. Some people find that exercises combining balance and breathing improve their energy.
- Try to avoid long naps late in the day. Long naps can leave you feeling groggy and may make it harder to fall asleep at night. Read A Good Nights Sleep for tips on getting better rest at night.
- Stop smoking.Smoking is linked to many diseases and disorders, such as cancer, heart disease, and breathing problems, which can drain your energy.
- Ask for help if you feel swamped. Some people have so much to do that just thinking about their schedules can make them feel tired. Working with others may help a job go faster and be more fun.
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Primary Sarcopenia Muscling Up
If blood flow isnt the issue, your tired legs may be due to loss of leg muscles. The clinical term for a loss of leg muscle and muscle strength is primary sarcopenia. Primary sarcopenia is due to aging. Starting sometime in your 30s, you begin to lose muscle mass. Bone density also declines with age. And in women, the hormonal changes triggered by menopause make bones even more likely to fracture in a fall. Both women and men also see an acceleration in muscle mass loss and muscle weakening after age 50.
Even if youre not planning a career as a senior bodybuilder, losing muscle mass should be a concern. Tired, weak muscles can limit your ability to be active and enjoy such activities as tennis, dancing, hiking, and much more. Growing weaker can also affect your daily functioning and independence.
What Are The Symptoms Of Peripheral Neuropathy
Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy usually begin gradually and include:
- A tingling sensation in the toes or in the balls of the feet that eventually spreads up the legs toward the trunk. Less commonly, the sensation may begin in the hands and spread up the arms.
- Numbness in the hands and feet that spreads up the arms and legs.
- Weakness or heaviness in muscles throughout the body. This may be accompanied by cramping, especially in the feet, legs, and hands.
- Sensitive skin that may be painful to the touch prickling, burning, tingling, or sharp stabbing sensations may occur spontaneously and usually worsen at night.
- Foot drop, a condition in which it is difficult to lift the front of one or both feet.
- Difficulty walking and/or problems with balance or coordination
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Kidney Disease And Kidney Failure
Kidney disease and resulting renal failure can cause pain in the lower back below the rib cage and at the sides of the body. Renal conditions that affect kidney function also cause edema in the legs and feet due to increased sodium and fluid retention because the kidneys cannot properly filter out sodium from the blood.
Why Is My Leg Weakness Spreading
Some causes of leg weakness can lead to weakness that spreads up or down the body. Some viruses can lead to damage to nerves in the body, leading to weakness, and depending on the virus, the weakness may begin in the head and neck and spread downward toward the legs and feet or may start in the feet and spread upward.
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Is The Weight Of Pregnancy The Reason Why So Many Pregnant Women Get Sciatica
Its true that sciatica is common in pregnancy but increased weight is not the main reason why pregnant women get sciatica. A better explanation is that certain hormones of pregnancy cause a loosening of their ligaments. Ligaments hold the vertebrae together, protect the disks and keep the spine stable. Loosened ligaments can cause the spine to become unstable and might cause disks to slip, which leads to nerves being pinched and the development of sciatica. The babys weight and position can also add pressure to the nerve.
The good news is there are ways to ease sciatic pain during pregnancy, and the pain goes away after birth. Physical therapy and massage therapy, warm showers, heat, medications and other measures can help. If you are pregnant, be sure to follow good posture techniques during pregnancy to also ease your pain.
Treatments For Lower Back Pain
The source of your lower back pain will help guide your treatment options. These include:
- Core strengthening to improve the ability of your abdominal muscles to support your spine
- Weight loss to decrease lower back strain
- Lower back and leg stretching to improve mobility and flexibility to alleviate areas of nerve compression and joint stiffness
- Application of ice to decrease pain and inflammation or heat to improve mobility and decrease stiffness
- Medication, hemodialysis, or kidney transplant to improve kidney function
- Medical management of underlying conditions that increase the risk of kidney disease, such as hypertension or diabetes
- Medications such as DMARDs and biologics to treat autoimmune forms of arthritis
- Antibiotics or antivirals to treat infections
- Pain medications taken orally via pill form, topically via creams or gels, or through injections into painful joints
- Surgery to relieve chronic nerve compression
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Complementary And Alternative Therapies
Eating a healthy diet, and using herbs and homeopathic remedies as recommended, may help reduce the debilitating symptoms of CFS, and may improve overall energy. Counseling, support groups, meditation, yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation are stress management techniques that may help as well.
- Save your energy. Your doctor may suggest that you slow down and pace yourself, so that you do not overdo it one day and pay for it the next. The goal is to maintain a steady, moderate amount of activity that includes regular exercise.
- Get regular exercise. Your doctor may suggest that you see a physical therapist to create an appropriate exercise program. At least one study shows that people with CFS who exercise have fewer symptoms than those who do not exercise.
- Reduce stress. Stress can make CFS symptoms worse. Guided meditation or deep breathing may help you relax. Studies show Qigong, in particular, helps reduce symptoms of fatigue and poor mental functioning.
Nutrition and Supplements
Avoid refined foods, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and saturated fats. Eat more fresh vegetables, legumes, whole grains, protein, and essential fatty acids found in nuts, seeds, and cold-water fish.
The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. However, herbs can trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, take herbs only under the supervision of a health care provider.
Care Advice For Normal Fatigue
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