The talk show host described it as "excruciating" in a Twitter video.

By Claire Gillespie
December 17, 2020
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Ellen DeGeneres, one of the most famous people to become infected with COVID-19 during the global pandemic, has revealed a symptom of the disease that she didn't expect.

DeGeneres announced that she was diagnosed with the coronavirus last week. On December 16, she posted a video to Twitter in which she states she's "feeling 100%." In the video, she also shared a particularly agonizing symptom—back pain.

"One thing they don't tell you is you get, somehow, excruciating back pain," the talk show host said in the video. "Didn't know that was a symptom, but I talked to some other people—back pain."

"Who knew? How come?" DeGeneres continued. "Back pain. Bad."

So is back pain a legit symptom of the coronavirus? It can be. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists muscle and body aches in general as a COVID-19 symptom, but not back pain specifically. DeGeneres didn't elaborate on what kind of back pain she experienced and where exactly it hurt.

However, some doctors have noticed back pain in patients who test positive. "We have been finding that COVID-19 can have a variety of presentations, and back pain can be a symptom," Vidya Mony, DO, associate hospital epidemiologist and associate medical director at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, California, tells Health.

Recent research backs up that back pain is a symptom. Following a review of more than 1,000 patients seen at a COVID-19 outpatient clinic in Boston in the early stages of the pandemic, Harvard Medical School researchers compiled a new list of symptoms to be aware of, which was published April 20 in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings journal. Back pain made the list, along with cough without fever, sore throat, diarrhea, abdominal pain, headache, body aches, and fatigue.

Besides being a possible early symptom of COVID-19, joint or muscle pain (which can occur anywhere in the body) may also be a more long-term effect of the disease, says the CDC. A study published in the online version of the British Medical Journal on November 17 found that muscle aches were the second most common symptom of so-called "long COVID." In a group of 201 young, low-risk patients in the UK with ongoing symptoms of COVID-19, 88% of them reported suffering from muscle aches four months after their initial symptoms of COVID-19 infection.

While back pain may not be one of the more common signs of COVID-19, Dr. Mony recommends getting tested for the virus if you do experience sudden, unexplained back pain. And COVID-19 aside, always seek medical attention for persistent back pain, because it could be a sign of another health issue—such as arthritis of the spine, a herniated (or bulging) disc, or a kidney condition.

It may also be caused by changes in the spine that happen as a natural result of aging, per the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. According to the CDC, acute lower back pain (i.e. back pain that lasts for four weeks or less) is extremely common, causing more disability around the world than any other condition.

The information in this story is accurate as of press time. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, it's possible that some data have changed since publication. While Health is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations for their own communities by using the CDCWHO, and their local public health department as resources.

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