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Joint Pain & Muscle Aches after ICU/drug-induced coma

I woke up in the ICU imobilized (hands bound to the railings) and ventilated (could not speak) - told that my heart had stopped and I was put in a drug-induced coma for 2 weeks to make my lungs breathe. Last I remembered, I had a bad flu at first - went to the ER and was sent home being told that I had a very nasty bug. Two days later, I went to my doctor's office and had a chest xray and was told I had pneumonia - sent home with an antibiotic, prednisone and a pain killer for my torturous headache.

Apparently, two days later I was having difficulty breathing (I recall vomiting, though did not produce much as I had not eaten in days) and my daughter called 911.

A respiratory technician was beside me as I was waking up from the coma and informed me that my heart had stopped beating and that my lungs were full of liquid and I had been diagnosed with ARDS.

Hallucinations and drug-hangover confused real-life conversations for a few days, but I was extubated 3 or 4 days later (torturous wait). I was discharged a few days later, sent home to recuperate with a walker as my muscles had atrophied from the 3 weeks of being bedridden.

It's been 2 months since I've been home - I can walk up to 5-6 miles on flat ground for exercise which has helped my lungs expand and my legs are mostly back to normal.

It's my joints and muscle stiffness that seem to be getting worse. I don't recall this being a problem when I first got home from the hospital - I was focussed on regaining my strength and balance by using the walker and moving about the house (not staying in bed). Definitely, after walking initially around the neighborhood caused muscle fatigue and soreness the next day. But now it seems that my joints are stiffening up and causing me more pain than before, especially in the mornings or when I wake up from naps.

My fingers are especially sore and stiff, they loosen up during the day as I use them. My shoulder is feeling like I will develop 'frozen shoulder', my knees are aching when I go up or down stairs...

Searching effects of muscle atrophy after sudden onset of illness doesn't address what I am experiencing... does anyone else have these symptoms? I have experienced hair loss, fingernail denting, skin sloughing/shedding -- and now joint pain and stiffness...

I am wondering if this will improve or get worse with time...

9 Replies

I was in hospital from 4 February until 3 March. The majority of this was spent in ICU battling severe septic shock, multi organ failure, pneumonia and blood clots. I was not expected to survive. I have ridges on my nails and my hair is starting to come out. I'm using a wheelchair and a stick and have been told the pain in my knees and feet is because the toxins have triggered an arthritic response in my joints. Today I have been given an exercise regime and have been advised to use an exercise bike for 5 minutes a day and gradually building up. I am also being referred for hydrotherapy. I have been told my ongoing problems are to be expected as I was so ill and it can take 18 months to return to pre illness health. I'm coping because I am here to tell the tale against the odds. Hope this helps you to know your symptoms are understandable.


I too was in a coma for over 3 weeks and am I'm learning to walk again. It's so frustrating!

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Thanks for sharing your story/situation -- I am glad you are on the mend! I realize that I'm having trouble wrapping my head around what happened to me and what I am now experiencing... I am humbled by everyone's stories and now realize that I am lucky to be alive and sharing conversations with you all and that I need to accept the fact that recovery will take time.

The toxin explanation for joint pain/arthritis will help me cope and understand what I'm experiencing.

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Don't push yourself so hard!! Treatment and recovery in full will take 2 years. I can barely walk still but am building up my distance over time, I was discharged end of March following 5 weeks in hospital, 2 of which in induced coma. Remember you lose 3-11% muscle mass PER DAY that you are in bed in hospital and you don't have the strength to walk 5-6 miles on your poor muscles yet.

When in the coma our fingernails and hair stop growing so I too have bad dents in my nails and my hair is falling out.

It will get better, but you must listen to your body and rest in bed when you need to. You nearly died!!!! I know that it's still a massive thing to get your head around but your body had said right, enough's enough, shut down lads to all your organs. Give it time to wake up again and go back to little and often for walking xx


You're right, thank you... I needed that kick in the behind!

: D


Sorry for being so forthright, didn't mean to be so direct, just go easy on yourself, don't push too hard or you'll make yourself ill again. Have you got an icu steps support group near you? I went to my first tonight, was fantastic!!


No apologies necessary, it was just a figure of speech -- my friends say I survived because I'm so stubborn...

: )

I don't know about an ICU Steps support group here... will look into it, thanks and you take care also!

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Hugs. X

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I have the same finger pain 9 months after 3 weeks of drug induced coma caused by acute pancreatitis within 1 day followed by pneumonia again within 1 day followed by ARDS ans MOD. I was close but recovered. I do not remember that pain immediately after the coma, but I do after 1 week. Compared to what I went through, I see this pain as nothing. I have experienced that fish oil helps reducing the pain in the joints but continuously using the fingers in spite of the pain is the best remedy. A good exercise is washing the dishes in hot water.


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