As the coronavirus pandemic continues to change the world, one orthopaedic surgeon is studying the virus’s potential long-term effects on the musculoskeletal system. Fred Nelson, MD, a surgeon in the Department of Orthopedics at Henry Ford Hospital, periodically contributes to the OrthoBuzz blog at the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. He believes that the virus carries the potential for orthopaedic surgeons to see a rise in demand to treat muscle and joint pain as patients recover from its more serious effects.
Orthopaedic Related Symptoms
While the virus’s full effects are still being studied, there is enough evidence at this point to confirm some basic orthopedic symptoms. According to Dr. Nelson, we know that myalgia is being reported in patients infected with the virus about 25 – 50% of the time. More seriously ill patients display higher levels of creatine kinase, indicating the presence of muscle damage. Patients in recovery often show decreased strength and endurance, and although this could be due to general deconditioning from inactivity while fighting off the virus, autopsies of patients show significant muscle destruction. The exact cause of the destruction is still up for debate.
Further Research Needed
Whatever the cause, orthopaedic surgeons are now more likely to encounter and be asked to treat musculoskeletal symptoms such as myalgia and arthralgia for patients post-COVID. While preliminary research suggests that rehabilitation can help, more research is needed to determine whether a return to former conditioning occurs for these patients.