Do you have long Covid? Thoracic pain is one of the most ‘frequent persisting’ signs

Long Covid victim discusses daily impact of virus

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There is no formally agreed definition of Long Covid but it has come to define Covid symptoms that persist weeks if not months after the initial infection has disappeared. Equally, the extent of the problem is hard to quantify, but recent figures published by the Office for National Statistics suggest it is worryingly common in Britain. An estimated 1.7 million people living in private households in the UK (2.7 percent of the population) were experiencing self-reported long Covid (symptoms persisting for more than four weeks after the first suspected Covid infection that were not explained by something else) as of 5 March 2022.

Ongoing research seeks to map out the symptoms of long Covid and classify them based on their prevalence.

A recent study published in the European Journal of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases sought to “describe the burden of the long-term persistence of clinical symptoms in COVID-19 patients”.

Researchers conducted a systematic review of the available literature on long Covid symptoms.

They sifted through the PubMed and Google Scholar databases for information on the prevalence of clinical symptoms lasting at least four weeks after the onset of a PCR- or serology-confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19.

The prevalence of persisting clinical symptoms was assessed and risk factors were described when investigated.

Thirty-seven articles met the inclusion criteria. Eighteen studies involved in-patients only with a duration of follow-up of either less than 12 weeks, 12 weeks to six months, or more.

What did the researchers find out?

Five long Covid symptoms were commonly reported across the literature.

One of the most “frequent persisting” symptoms was thoracic pain, the researchers wrote.

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Thoracic pain is back pain that occurs in the “thoracic spine”, which is located at the back of the chest (the thorax), mostly between the shoulder blades.

The NHS explains: “The thoracic area is designed for stability, to anchor the rib cage and to provide protection for vital organs within the chest.”

The study also found the following signs to be be indicative of long Covid:

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Joint pain.

In nineteen studies conducted in a majority of out-patients, the persistence of these symptoms was lower and three percent to 74 percent of patients reported prolonged smell and taste disorders, the researchers noted.

They also pinpointed the risk factors that may make someone more prone to developing long Covid.

The main risk factors for persisting symptoms were being female, older, having comorbidities (having more than one underlying health condition) and severity at the acute phase of the disease.

In light of their findings, they concluded: “COVID-19 patients should have access to dedicated multidisciplinary healthcare allowing a holistic approach.”

What treatment is available?

Unfortunately, there is no current treatment available for long Covid and finding one is the main objective now the pandemic appears to be receding.

However, your doctor may be able to give you advice about how to manage and monitor your symptoms at home, explains the NHS.

The health body continues: “If the symptoms are having a big impact on your life, you may be referred to a specialist rehabilitation service or a service that specialises in the specific symptoms you have.”

As it explains, these services can help manage your symptoms and help you recover.

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