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11 Most "Excruciating" COVID Symptoms 

COVID-19 floored Ellen DeGeneres. And back pain is just one of the painful symptoms.

The coronavirus death toll keeps rising—and making things worse, left uncounted are the untold thousands of people who live…but live in pain. After actor Alyssa Milano (who lost her hair) and singer Jeremih (who had to learn to walk again) made clear how serious COVID-19 can mess you up, talk show host Ellen DeGeneres is the latest celebrity to speak out about her COVID symptoms. "I am feeling 100 percent. I feel really good," DeGeneres said in an Instagram video posted yesterday. "One thing they don't tell you is you get, somehow, excruciating back pain," she continued, adding that she "didn't know that was a symptom." "Who knew? How come?" DeGeneres wondered. "Back pain. Bad." Read on to discover the "excruciating" and "bad" symptoms of COVID, so you know what to watch out for, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus


Muscle Aches and Pains—Including Back Pain

Woman feeling neck ache, suffering from painful feeling in neck

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, has warned of "muscle pain," which he also calls "myalgia." You may feel this in your joints, muscles, anywhere where there may be tissue, which becomes inflamed as your body fights off the virus. "The virus can spread through the bloodstream…and cause infection in all tissues…such as the heart and brain," says a study in the Nature Public Health Emergency Collection. "Therefore, the musculoskeletal system"—which includes the bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and nerves—"can also undergo infection."


Lung Scarring

Doctor examining chest x-ray film of patient at hospital

"Something that we are seeing from a radiologic perspective are patients with permanent lung damage regardless of age group," says Dr. José Morey, a practicing radiologist in Virginia. "Lung scarring often associated with chronic chemical damage such as smoking is occurring which leads to reduced overall lung function and fatigue." According to Dr. Lili Barsky, "chronic lung irritation or damage can lead to asthma or even pulmonary fibrosis."


Kidney Failure

At doctors appointment physician shows to patient shape of kidney with focus on hand with organ. Scene explaining patient causes and localization of diseases of kidney, stones, adrenal, urinary system - Image

"The patients who are ventilated have had as high as up to 30% incidence of chronic kidney failure post-recovery—meaning that they will need to be on dialysis machines afterward," says Dr. Sunny Jha, an anesthesiologist at the University of Southern California. "It's unclear how much kidney function they will be able to recover afterward so they don't rely on dialysis."

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Physical Debilitation

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"Most patients lose weight but in the most severe cases for critically ill patients who are ventilators for weeks, their muscle mass is markedly reduced and they need to relearn to do basic functions such as swallowing and walking," says Dr. Jha. 



Nurse taking the blood pressure of elderly man

"If there was kidney and blood vessel damage to the arteries in general, this leads to chronic kidney failure and a cascade of chemical reactions that cause high blood pressure and its negative effects," says Dr. Christine Traxler. "High blood pressure, when not controlled, can lead to atherosclerosis and complications like strokes and heart attacks later in life."

RELATED: Simple Ways to Avoid a Heart Attack, According to Doctors



A businesswoman rubbing her eyes.

"Persistent fatigue"—a whole-body tiredness—"can result from the stress of illness, from the viral inflammation, or the breathing impairment from lung damage," says Leann Poston M.D.


Venous Insufficiency in the Legs

Thigh pain or muscle twitching or muscle cramp.

"If your COVID-19 infection led to a blood clot in the leg, which isn't uncommon, this will do permanent damage to the leg veins," says Dr. Traxler. "The blood clot in the leg itself will go away with treatment but the veins themselves become so damaged that there will be a long-lasting risk of blood backing up in the leg veins."



Sad woman with face protective mask looking through the window at home.

"When a person has a COVID-19 infection, especially if severe, this can be a traumatic experience for the affected person," says Dr. Traxler. "Not everyone handles such a life-threatening experience well and will have persistent nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety, and depression as a result of the trauma affecting thinking and the body's general response to severe traumatic stress."


Persistent Fever

Sick woman with cold and flu.

"Day 47 with a fever. Second Covid test – negative. Blood work – normal," patient Kate Meredith told NBC News. "My body officially isn't fighting this virus anymore, yet my fever and sinus tachycardia tell a different story."


Limb Numbness

Pain in the foot of the elderly

"Andrew Dumont, 32, of Seattle, has also tested negative for the virus after a previous positive COVID-19 test," NBC News reported. "Two months since first falling ill, Dumont still suffers from numbness in his limbs and shortness of breath—prompting two visits to the emergency room twice in the past week. CT scans and lung x-rays showed no additional infections."

RELATED: The New COVID Symptom Every Woman Needs to Know


Need for Oxygen

Woman with breathing problem

"In the sick people I saw in a NYC hospital, there were many who had overcome the viral replication of the disease—they had been intubated in the ICU and were now off the ventilator and out of the ICU," says Dr. Larry Burchett, MD and Emergency Physician. "Yet, they still needed 4L of Oxygen for example in order to keep their oxygen levels up. The virus was gone, but the lungs were still recovering from the damage done."


So What Can You Do to Help Yourself—And Others?

Back view of a doctor attending to a woman patient through a video call with the laptop at home.

Every day that passes, doctors are working tirelessly to discover new ways to treat COVID-19—and how to counteract any long-lasting damage—learning about it in real time. If you feel despondent because you are in pain or think your symptoms will last forever, speak to your doctor about their new findings; chances are they've met someone with your exact same issues. And spread the word about what you're feeling—to professionals and friends and family. The more we all know about coronavirus, the faster we can be rid of this disease, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these  35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Emilia Paluszek
Emilia specializes in human biology and psychology at the University at Albany. Read more about Emilia