It is estimated that approximately 1.2 million people in the United States suffer from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Treatment has improved to the extent that people living with HIV now experience
Despite improvements in treatment, even people with very low viral loads can experience pain in areas such as the back, head, or abdomen.
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In this article, we will learn about the common extent and causes of back pain in HIV-infected people.
According to an article published in the journal “Antiviral Medicine Topics” in 2015, it is estimated that
- Headache: 17.9%
- stomach ache: 15.6%
- Back pain: 13.3%
The researchers also found that in this study, women were 1.8 times more likely to experience pain than men.
Both the HIV virus and antiretroviral drugs are thought to cause chronic pain. However, it may be difficult to determine the cause of pain based on symptoms alone.
If you develop symptoms shortly after starting medication, your doctor may suspect that the medication and not the virus is causing your back pain.
Next, we will discuss some other causes of chronic pain in people with HIV.
It is believed that the pain receptors of HIV-infected people are usually allergic to inflammation.
If you are dealing with a disease that causes inflammation in your back, such as an injury or rheumatoid arthritis, the pain may increase due to changes in your immune system in response to the virus.
Even if the inflammation has passed, hypersensitivity to inflammation may cause pain.
- Degenerative disc disease (14 people)
- Nerve impact (5 people)
- Kidney cyst (3 people)
Some participants have more than one situation.
Antiretroviral drugs and HIV may also cause back pain by causing peripheral neuropathy. Peripheral neuropathy is damage to nerves other than the brain or spinal cord.
In addition to pain, neuropathy can cause the following symptoms:
Another cause of back pain in HIV-infected people is central sensitivity. Central sensitization is when your brain receives pain signals without injury or inflammation.
The back pain of people living with HIV may vary from person to person.
The pain can range from mild to severe, and can manifest as tightness, throbbing, pressure, or severe pain. People with neuropathy usually describe pain as burning, tingling, or tingling.
Although you may feel pain in any part of your back, many people will feel pain in the lower part of the spine.
If you have specific back problems, your pain may be exacerbated by changes in your immune system.
Your exact symptoms will depend on the underlying cause of the pain. For example, if you have degenerative disc disease in your lower back, your pain may be:
- Mainly affects your lower back
- Extend to your legs or hips
- Twist or worsen after sitting down
- Come and go for a few days to a few months
The first step in relieving back pain when dealing with HIV is to work with your doctor to develop a treatment plan.
If your doctor suspects that one of these drugs will cause your pain, your doctor can help you stop the progression of HIV and adjust your medications.
You can also prevent degenerative diseases and injuries by taking care of your spine health, thereby helping to prevent back pain. Some steps you can take include:
- Do back strengthening and stretching exercises twice a week
- Standing and sitting in good posture
- Avoid lifting heavy objects; when you lift heavy objects, bend your knees and keep your back straight
- Stay active and eat a nutritious diet
You can talk to a healthcare professional to determine the best treatment plan to help you cope with back pain.
Many non-drug treatments may help reduce back pain, including:
For mild to moderate pain, your doctor may recommend acetaminophen, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), or steroids.
For moderate to severe pain, your doctor may prescribe opioids, such as:
It is important to note that the use of opioids may lead to substance abuse, which in turn leads to addiction. Therefore, when prescribing, your doctor will carefully monitor your use of these drugs.
If you work with a doctor, the pain caused by HIV is usually treatable. But your pain outlook depends on many factors, such as:
- The root cause of your pain
- The severity of your pain
- How far has HIV infection progressed
If your medications are causing your pain, changing them may help relieve the discomfort. However, you should not stop taking any medications without first consulting your doctor.
People with HIV infection often experience chronic back pain and pain in other parts of the body, such as the abdomen, head, and joints. Many factors can cause this chronic pain.
HIV and antiretroviral drugs may cause changes in your immune system, which can make your pain receptors allergic.
Even if there is no inflammation or tissue damage, they can cause nerve damage or cause your brain to interpret pain.
If you are dealing with chronic back pain and you are infected with HIV, it is best to discuss potential treatment options with your doctor.