Can the Flu Cause Severe Lower Back Pain?

Flu season is here, and many are experiencing the fever, cough, sore throat, aches and pains, runny nose and fatigue commonly symptomatic of the influenza virus. Some also experience flu back pain. This pain can be severe, and some are worried that it could indicate a serious medical condition.

Back pain, even when severe, is a normal symptom of the flu virus. A number of things may contribute to back pain when you have the flu. One is that the virus is attacking many cells within your body, and your body responds with large-scale inflammation. Inflammation is meant to isolate threats and facilitate healing of tissues. Fever, a common feature of the flu, is an example of inflammation on a whole-body scale.

While inflammation serves a purpose, it is painful. This, combined with the fact that the flu virus attacks nerve endings, leaves you with a ripe situation for aches and pains. These are often felt in the arms and legs, but can also be expected in the lower back.

Another flu symptom that can cause severe back pain is dehydration. Fevers entail sweating and increased metabolic activity within the body, both of which use up the body’s fluid supply quickly. Dehydration will be worse if you also have diarrhea or vomiting. If you’re deficient in fluids, you also have less electrolytes than needed; these chemicals serve a variety of functions within the body, including the facilitation of muscle contractions and cellular metabolic processes. If electrolytes like potassium, magnesium, calcium and sodium are not replenished regularly, your muscles suffer cramps, twitches and aches. This is why many people drink electrolyte beverages after rigorous physical activity and while sick.

Beware of heavily-sugared electrolyte drinks; high sugar intake creates an insulin spike within the body that sets off your inflammatory response, which you’re already experiencing enough of when you have the flu.

It is possible that your vitamin D levels are low during flu time, as this vitamin is involved in the proper functioning of the immune system. Supplementation may help you recover faster; it may also help to treat back pain, since vitamin D is necessary for the absorption of the electrolytes calcium and magnesium.

Natural Pain Relief

Most people run to the pharmacy when they have the flu. Over-the-counter medicines may help to reduce throat and nose symptoms, but it is generally best not to suppress your fever with medication unless you are very young, old or have a medical condition. Over-the-counter medicines don’t really cure the flu, because they don’t attack the virus. They mask symptoms and contain ingredients that can cause drowsiness, hyperactivity, stomach problems and other complications. You generally benefit more from letting the fever run its course. Fever means inflammation, and inflammation means pain. There are a few things you can do to decrease the back pain you feel with the flu.

Make sure you’re getting enough fluids and electrolytes. Supplementing vitamin D or eating foods that contain it, such as tuna, salmon, shiitake mushrooms and cod liver oil will increase your chances of maintaining proper electrolyte levels.

Ingesting anti-inflammatory foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants will help to decrease the inflammation in your body naturally. Turmeric is one spice that is hailed for its anti-inflammatory properties and can be added to a variety of dishes. Applying cold flannels to your back may also help ease the pain.

While it may be tempting to stay nestled in bed all day when you have the flu, make sure to get up every hour or so, if possible, to do some light stretching. Immobility will worsen your muscle pain.


Nausea, back pain and fever are also symptoms of other, more serious medical conditions besides the flu. Both kidney infection and endemetriosis may be indicated, particularly if you lack other flu symptoms like sore throat and runny nose. If your back pain is accompanied by a fever and you have any question as to whether or not you have the flu, see a doctor immediately.

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