The US Centers for Disease Control have confirmed the presence of Zika virus in the US. Although we still know relatively little about Zika, we do know that Zika and back pain can be connected.
People who already have muscle pain and back pain may not notice any change in symptoms if they contract Zika. Others may simply attribute back pain and joint pain to whatever usually causes their back pain. In fact, many people infected with Zika virus have no symptoms at all or experience symptoms that are very mild. This means that many people with Zika may not seek medical attention.
The CDC has noted that people with Zika have an increased risk of developing Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS). This rare syndrome is a neurological condition that typically occurs after a viral infection. GBS can result in progressive weakness in the limbs, which is also a potential symptom of serious spinal problems. Anyone with a spine issue such as a herniated disc should discuss any changes in symptoms with their physician right away.
Zika and Back Pain in Pregnancy
Zika and back pain share another important connection. Just as Zika virus can cause muscle pain and joint pain, so can pregnancy, and Zika virus is extremely dangerous in pregnancy. Being infected with Zika can lead to serious birth defects and other problems with pregnancy.
While some back pain in pregnancy is normal, anyone who is pregnant and lives in an area of the US where mosquitoes carry Zika should talk to their physician if they experience back pain. Anyone who is pregnant and has traveled to an area where Zika is present should also get checked for infection.
In August 2016, the US CDC began advising pregnant women and those who may become pregnant not to travel to parts of Florida. Anyone who has traveled in such areas is recommended to postpone attempts to become pregnant or impregnate a partner until at least 8 weeks after any symptoms of Zika have passed.
Diagnosing Zika and Back Pain
A blood or urine test can confirm a diagnosis of infection with Zika. There is, however, no specific medicine for Zika. Instead, the advice is to treat the symptoms and get plenty of rest. This means using analgesics such as acetaminophen or paracetamol to reduce fever and pain, and drinking plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. Aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) shouldn’t be taken unless a physician has ruled out dengue.
If a person with Zika experiences back pain, specific back pain relief products may also be helpful during the recovery period.
Preventing Zika and Back Pain
There is currently no vaccine for Zika, but researchers are working to develop a vaccine and treatments. In the meantime, it is best to try to avoid exposure to the virus by limiting exposure to mosquitoes carrying the virus. It’s also important to reduce the risk of transmitting Zika to or contracting Zika from other people. This means practicing safe sex and avoiding exposing others to bodily fluids.