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The One Sure Sign Ellen DeGeneres Had COVID

Muscle aches, or myalgia, can be a presenting symptoms of coronavirus.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek
Ellen DeGeneres

One of the most nefarious characteristics of the coronavirus is that it damages different people in different ways. Your friend may have no symptoms while you might feel OK for a week, but then spiral into a lifetime of chronic fatigue and debilitating migraines. Meanwhile, more than 300,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. For talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, who revealed on December 10th that she contracted COVID, one sure sign she had the coronavirus was severe pain—in her back. Read on to hear why back pain may be a presenting symptom of your coronavirus, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus

Muscle or Body Aches are a Recognized Symptom of COVID-19

"Hi everybody, just saying thank you to all the well wishes out there. I appreciate it very much," DeGeneres said in an Instagram video posted yesterday. "I am feeling 100 percent. I feel really good….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."

On the official list of the CDC's coronavirus symptoms—fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, among others—there is one that gets less attention: muscle or body aches. Yes, COVID can cause mild to severe pain in your muscles and joints, as your body fights the virus. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease doctor, has mentioned them as a "telltale" sign someone has coronavirus. 

This "myalgia," "which can involve ligaments, tendons and fascia, the soft tissues that connect muscles, bones and organs," according to Johns Hopkins, may even present itself without a fever. 

"Fever is not a reliable indicator" of COVID-19, said a research team led by Pieter Cohen,  associate professor of medicine at Harvard and a physician with the Cambridge Health Alliance, in Boston, back in May. "COVID-19 may begin with various permutations of cough without fever, sore throat, diarrhea, abdominal pain, headache, body aches, back pain and fatigue. It can also present with severe body aches and exhaustion," Cohen's group explained.

The pain is the result of an inflammatory response in the body, as cytokines—small proteins important in cell signaling—tell your immune system to wake up and fight disease. This can cause tissue breakdown, as well. For some people, myalgia can last for months after contracting coronavirus, and may last a lifetime. They have what's being called "Post-COVID Syndrome," a debilitating situation that can include chronic fatigue, migraines, "brain fog," and, yes, back pain.

RELATED: The New COVID Symptom Every Woman Needs to Know

If You Feel Severe Back Pain, Contact Your Doctor

Waiting around for a fever is the wrong way to approach this pandemic, given the myriad symptoms. If you feel severe back pain, contact your doctor. "Early recognition and proper triage are especially important given that in the first days of infection, people infected with SARS-CoV-2 may experience symptoms indistinguishable from a variety of other acute viral and bacterial infections," said Cohen. "Even when point-of-care diagnostic tests are available, given the potential for false-negative results, understanding the early natural history of COVID-19 and good old-fashioned clinical skills will remain indispensable for proper care."

And to prevent getting COVID in the first place, follow the public health fundamentals and help end this surge, no matter where you live—wear a face mask, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, stay home and play Connect Four (as Ellen did after explaining her back pain) and to protect your life and the lives of others, and don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.