Joint Pain and Fatigue After COVID-19: How this Long Hauler Dealt With It

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This blog provides information about my own personal experiences. This article is not intended to diagnosed, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or condition.  I am NOT a doctor or medical professional. I cannot prescribe, diagnose, or treat or recommend any medical treatments. The information and other content provided on this blog or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for a qualified healthcare professional or treatment. You should consult with your own health care provider and discuss treatment options and questions with your health care provider, including anything read here to determine if they are appropriate for you. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor, go to the emergency department, or call 911 immediately. Use of any information on this website is solely at your own risk and you accept full responsibility.

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Joint Pain and Fatigue After COVID-19

Since April 2020, I had COVID-19 and have been dealing with the long term effects or Post-Acute Sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC) as a COVID Long Hauler. I wrote this article to share what has helped me with other Long Haulers who may experience joint pain after COVID-19, fatigue after COVID-19, hair loss after COVID-19, nerve pain, or inflammation problems.

The cause or your condition may be different than mine and you need to talk to your doctor and research any recommendations to see if they are appropriate for you based on your medical history and own unique physiology and medicines you are taking, such as blood thinners. I list some tests that I received and were helpful, and you can ask your doctor for certain tests to show why you may have joint pain after COVID. I am not a medical professional and cannot treat or diagnose or prescribe or consult. Please work with your doctors or healthcare professional to determine the right treatment protocol for you and any possible contraindications. By continuing to read, you accept full responsibility and agree to hold the blog author and owner harmless.

My Long Haul or PASC Symptoms

On April 7, 2020, after finding out my mother who I had been caring for had COVID-19, I tested positive for COVID-19. I recovered and from April 16 – April 27 and had a normal 97 degree temperature. On April 26, I was exposed to the virus and pneumonia while taking my mother off her life support ventilator. By April 28, I was having familiar COVID-19 symptoms but a little milder and new ones that left me battling them until the end of June. Read about my COVID-19 experiences and what I did to recover. (Link does not work yet. Writing article)

It was hard to know when I was no longer infectious given the several month 101 degree fever for three months, but the my main Long Haul, or Post-COVID syndrome or Post-Acute Sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC) symptoms that remained are below. The ones in Bold, I will share what I am doing about them.

  • Joint Pain – Finger joints, and knees
  • Nerve pain – mostly in the finger tips and feet
  • Fatigue – I could sleep 14 hours and still be tired. My body felt like cement was poured inside me. My body, legs, and arms felt so heavy that they were hard to move and lift. Walking a few steps tired me out and I had to rest.
  • Headaches – basically every day mild to severe but mostly mild
  • Hair loss – from June to September
  • Brittle nails
  • Wrinkled fingertips
  • COVID toes or four of my toenails turned blue due to the skin underneath turning blue
  • Increased nasal congestion (stuffy nose)
  • Diarrhea
  • Glaucoma and eye pain
  • Liver pain – ache beneath the ribs and around the back
  • Stomach and abdomen bloating

COVID-19 Causing Joint Pain and Nerve Pain

According to research in The Lancet in October 2020, almost 15% of the COVID-19 cases have joint pain or arthralgia. In “Radiological images confirm ‘COVID-19 can Attack Itself'” in Science Daily 2021, the study says muscle soreness and achy joints can be severe, long lasting. Dr. Swati Deshmukh says, “We’ve realized that the COVID virus can trigger the body to attack itself in different ways which may lead to rheumatological issues that require lifelong management.”

My Joint Pain and Nerve Pain

Even sitting and doing nothing, my knees and finger joints were painful and they felt inflamed – hot and swollen. It was hard to move my fingers to cut vegetables. Walking up or down stairs was especially difficult, and even walking on a flat surface caused severe pain in my knees.

For the nerve pain, my entire fingertip down to the joint of various fingers would have a stabbing pain which also was felt in my feet. I would lie awake feeling the pain in one area of my foot then move to another and another, instead of “Where’s Waldo?” it was “Where is the pain moving to next?” My fingers were ice cold yet the back of my hand and palms would not be as cold. My fingertips were wrinkled no matter how much water I drank. My feet were often freezing and felt painful. A heating pad and warm footie socks made the ice cold feet much better.

Joint Pain Tests

There are tests that can show inflammation markers. Depending on your results, you may want to see if your doctor thinks you need to be referred to a rheumatologist or another doctor for further treatment.

  • C-reactive protein high-sensitivity (CP-HS) – marker of inflammation which include inflammation in the arteries of the heart
  • Rheumatoid Factor (RF) – checks for the rheumatoid factor protein
  • RNP Antibodies – checks for RNP Antibodies which is a marker for mixed connective tissue disease.
  • Antinuclear Antibody Panel (ANA Test)
    • Expensive test that tests for non-COVID-19 antibodies that are attacking your own healthy cells and tissues (auto-antibodies) that may cause an autoimmune disorder: Smith Antibodies, Antiscleroderma-70 Antibodies, Sjorgen’s Anti-SS-A, Sjorgren’s Anti-SSB, Anti-Jo-1, Anti-Centromere B Antibodies all, Antichromatin Antibodies

Post-Viral Syndrome

My primary care doctor diagnosed my pain and fatigue as “post-viral syndrome” which is the first I heard of it. Apparently, you can get it even from a normal flu. It is also called myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) which used to be called chronic fatigue syndrome. It is abnormalities in the nervous, immune, and metabolic systems. For many, it improves with time although age and other health conditions, including ones that were dormant, may have a longer lasting effect. It affects twice as many women than men.

To give you an idea of where my RNP Antibodies were on June 20, 2020, they were 2.5 (normal is 0.00 – 0.9) but by October 16, they decreased to 1.3. as you can see, they are coming down.

My ANA and CRP-HS were also high but the Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) factor was normal, so between the test and my doctors looking at my hands, no one things I have rheumatoid arthritis. My doctor is confident, my body would heal with time and did not want to refer me to a rheumatologist. He was also concerned about the side affects from the medicines they may prescribe. I was worried if my body stayed inflamed, I would get permanent damage or arthritis. Given my pain with walking and moving my fingers and because I did not want to take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) every day, I started taking Move Free Advanced which had helped my knee pain many years before and added several other supplements to reduce the pain.

Based on my symptoms, I researched other supplements mostly using medically verified websites and research articles, looking up supplement ingredients, seeing what kind of laboratory testing or certification for ingredient purity and lab standards where the supplements are made, reading hundreds of Amazon reviews, reading other Long Haulers recommendations, watching YouTube videos, and consulting with my infectious disease doctor who advised me on the blood thinning properties and whether or not she thought it would be appropriate and safe for me.

Supplements that Helped Joint Pain, Nerve Pain, Fatigue, and Other Long Haul Problems

Supplements that Helped My Fatigue and Joint Pain after COVID-19
  • Joint Pain
    • Move Free Advanced plus MSM – for joint pain and inflammation. 3 capsules a day
    • Fish Oil – Omega-3 Fish Oil by Triple Space – one capsule.
      • When I finish my bottle, I am going to try Vegan Omega-3 by Sport Research which is a plant-based algae oil with 630 mg DHA+ EPA per serving.
    • Nature’s Base Turmeric with Bioprene black pepper (gives me heartburn; also blood thinner) – 2 capsules
      • After I finish my bottle, I am going to stop this and see how I do.
    • Flax Seed Oil by Nature Made – 1 capsule
    • Nettle Leaf tea by Traditional Medicinals
  • Nerve Pain (and good for energy)
  • Fatigue
    • See Alpha Lipoic Acid
    • N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) by Puremedics – 1 capsule. Amazon no longer has this brand of supplement as of May 18, 2021. You need to drink lots of water when you take this NAC
    • Acetyl L-Carnitine by Superior Labs – 1 capsule
      • My infectious disease doctor wasn’t sure if this would really help, but I am leaving it in my list and am still taking it.
    • Ubiquinol or CoQ10 by Quonol – 1 capsule
    • B-12 – 1 capsule
    • COVID-19 damages the mitochondria of the cells which is the part that makes energy for the cell. You need food to help the mitochondria. Search for” mitochondria diet.” It includes foods such as nuts and seeds (almonds, cashews, flaxseed, pumpkin seeds or pepitas, walnuts, chia seeds), legumes, avocados, and salmon.
  • Re-balance microbiome (for diarrhea, immune system, reduce inflammation)
    • Depending if I think I need it, I will take one capsule of one of the probiotics below or just one capsule a day (not one of each of the three). I tend to take one a few days before if I want to build up my immune system.
      • Wholesome Wellness Raw Probiotics (has prebiotics, digestive enzymes) – I like this overall
      • Garden of Life Raw Probiotics Colon Care – 1 capsule – helps diarrhea or
      • Garden of Life Raw Probiotics Women’s Care – 1 capsule – helps constipation
    • L-Glutamine for leaky gut repair and muscle growth by MRM Nutrition – See the initial protocol on an empty stomach. I take 5 mg at night for maintenance some nights. I buy it from Vitacost.com.
    • Gold kiwi from New Zealand – has a good bacteria that COVID kills off
  • Food Digestion
    • Digestive Enzymes by Purely Optimal – 2 capsules every time eat
    • Licorice Root tea by Traditional Medicinals for respirator and digestive health
    • Lemon Balm by Traditional Medicinals – tastes good and makes the other teas taste better
  • Hair loss, Brittle nails
    • Flax seed oil – 1 capsule
    • Biotin
    • B Complex – 1 capsule
    • Using avocado oil in cooking and good to put on nails
    • Coconut oil on the nails
    • Good fats from nuts, avocados
  • Liver and gallbladder pain (I have Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) and Gallstones)
    • Get Clean Tea by the Republic of Tea (detox tea for kidneys, liver, gallbladder, GI)
    • Best Liver Supplements with Milk Thistle by Dr. Danielle
    • Dandelion Leaf and root tea for liver and gallbladder by Traditional Medicinals
  • General
    • Vitamin D – take walks in the sun
    • Vitamin C
    • Vitamin E
    • Zinc
    • Calcium – I like New Chapter made from algae and it has helped my osteopenia, but it has gotten expensive. I am going to try a Vegan Plant-based Calcium by Plant Fusion next, also made from algae.

Hair Loss After COVID

Hair loss and dry, brittle hair after COVID-19 is a very common problem due to the stress and the energy drain on your body to fight and recover. The medical condition is called Telogen Effluvium which is a temporary hair loss after a prolonged stressful event and other reasons. It occurs approximately one to four months after the event where the growth of some of your hair is temporarily stopped and older hairs falls out sooner. You will find your hair covering your hands and arms when you wash your hair. It falls all over the floor or gets caught in your comb or brush when you brush your hair. Hair will tickle your arms and you will find it in your food. instead of 100 hairs a day, you may be losing 300 hairs a day. My husband found a record of three of my hairs in his dinner one night. Your hair might feel very dry and brittle. It breaks easily. Hair loss may continue three to 5 months or even longer. It is annoying and sad. Just remember, you are alive. It is hair. Eventually, it will grow back. I looked for Amazon wigs in case my scalp started showing too much. Some ladies, cut their hair short, so it is less traumatic to see the long hair falling out. I kept mine long hoping to do a comb over as needed.

Since each hair shampoo, condition, and blow dry resulted in a significant hair loss, I waited as long as I could between hair washes to avoid breaking more hair off. Be gentle washing your scalp when washing and drying to avoid even more hair coming out. I have held off any hair coloring for over a year.

You can try using avocado, coconut or Moroccan argan oil or giving yourself a deep conditioning, but be careful. Many treatments involved massaging it into the hair and scalp, which made more hair break off. I was rather horrified how much more hair fell out doing that. I tried it twice and stopped, since I was afraid I would not have any hair left. Plus after a treatment, you will need to wash it out.

I listed supplements that are good for hair loss. I can’t say they stopped my hair loss; it seemed to take it own sweet time but my hair was finally healthy and stayed in my scalp when the loss stopped. I didn’t have much hair left in a ponytail when it stopped. I was sick in April and May. My hair loss started in June when I was still recovering and continued until September 18. No medical treatments exist for it, but you may want to have your doctor do blood work to check for an iron or thyroid deficiency. Some people have had very low iron after COVID-19.

Protein such as eggs, fish, beans, grains, nuts, and meat are also helpful for hair re-growth. Iron deficiency can be helped by dark green leafy vegetables, beans, lentils, and red meat.

If losing your hair is causing you anxiety, it is normal even after it stops coming out. It took several months before I could relax in the shower without worrying about my hands being covered in my long hair. My best advice is it will slow down and stop falling out. Don’t wash your hair often but condition it when you do. Eat healthily and consider some supplements to help you have healthy hair when the growth cycle gets kicked off again.

Brittle Nails After Covid

I think the same things that helped my hair eventually worked on my nails too. They had broke and ripped easily. I had saw ridges down my nails. Now, they are pretty smooth and healthy looking and not breaking like crazy.

I also had problems with my fingertips being very wrinkled and pruney looking. It is mostly better today, but I am not sure what helped other than during copious amounts of water all day and hand cream at night. I have solidified coconut oil by my bed for my hands and increasing my healthy fats (nuts, avocado, avocado oil, salmon). If you use any hand sanitizers, they have high alcohol content in them and that will definitely dry out your hands. I wash my hands as soon as I can to get that off. Moisturize your hands afterwards. Keep in mind, all hand creams are not created equal or work equally.

Microbiome – Brain Fog, Inflammation

I took some classes on the microbiome and watched an Amazon Prime microbiome documentary, “The Gut: Our Second Brain” on the number of neurons in our gut rivals what we have in our brain – you have have heard of the “gut feeling.” The vagus nerve connects these neural systems in the brain and gut which influences many functions in our body such as temperature, heart rate, and digestion. Since COVID-19 has been found in the stool even 90 days later, I think it can do serious damage to our neurons in our gut which may lead to brain fog and systemic inflammation in the body leading to inability to eat many foods and having to eat low inflammatory or low histamine foods or follow a Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MAST) diet.

I don’t suffer from brain fog, but I took probiotics when I had COVID and tried to make it harder for the virus in my sinuses and lungs to replicate through steam inhalation.

I listed the microbiome and gut rebuilding things I am doing. After I did the L-Glutamine for leaky gut protocol, I noticed I could go five days instead of every day with my supplements before my knees acted up so I feel there is less systemic inflammation in my body. Magically, my super-distended and bloated stomach and abdomen went down and I lost a few pounds; even my dad and sister noticed. After COVID-19, I was able to drink wine, margaritas, and coffee without an increase in Long Haul symptoms that I have noticed. I am fortunate, since I am not good with diets.

You may want to find an integrative functional nutritionist who specializes in the microbiome to help you.

Plants have a tremendous healing power and can help your microbiome and decrease inflammation, so I have greatly increased eating organic vegetables and fruit and try to eat vegetarian 2 – 4 nights a week with tofu or beans instead of meat. I try to cook with water or vegetable broth instead of oil . Doing that has brought my liver enzyme values from several high values to normal ranges, dropping 65 – 120 points.

I have been able to add organic vegetables and fruit to my diet for a fraction of the normal cost through Hungry Harvest, to learn more click on the link.

I hope you will find the tools that you need in your journey to health.

Other Helpful References

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Claire With Love
Claire With Love

Claire has over 30 years as systems engineer and project engineer with Fortune 100 companies and over 20 years as a Reiki Master Teacher, Healing Touch Certified Practitioner, and energy medicine teacher.

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