Public interest in musculoskeletal symptoms and disorders during the COVID-19 pandemic Infodemiology study

Kardes S., Erdem A., Gurdal H.

ZEITSCHRIFT FUR RHEUMATOLOGIE, vol.81, no.3, pp.247-252, 2022 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 81 Issue: 3
  • Publication Date: 2022
  • Doi Number: 10.1007/s00393-021-00989-2
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus, BIOSIS, CAB Abstracts, EMBASE, MEDLINE
  • Page Numbers: pp.247-252
  • Keywords: Google trends, Internet, Rheumatology, Musculoskeletal diseases, Rheumatic diseases, Soft tissue rheumatism
  • Istanbul University Affiliated: Yes


Objective The goal was to assess public interest in a wide range of musculoskeletal symptoms and disorders during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Methods We searched Google Trends for 118 search queries within the United States. We compared two timeframes of 2020 (March 15-July 4 and July 5-October 31) to similar timeframes over the four prior years (2016-2019). Results In the early pandemic, March 15-July 4, a statistically significant decrease in relative search volume of the majority of queries (60%) was detected, with a significant increase in only 2 queries (i.e. myalgia and toe swelling). In the phase July through October, a statistically significant decrease was detected in only 22% of search queries; there was no difference for 60% of search queries between 2020 and 2016-2019 suggesting a return to their prior levels for most of search queries. Interestingly, the search volume of 18% of search queries (i.e. fatigue, joint pain, muscle pain, myalgia, spondylosis, radiculopathy, myelopathy, neck pain, neck strain, lower back strain, sciatica, shoulder pain, frozen shoulder, elbow pain, lateral epicondylitis, wrist pain, carpal tunnel, hand pain, finger pain, trigger finger, and Morton's neuroma) was significantly increased compared with the four prior years. Conclusion Public interest focused on COVID-19 and sought online information for COVID-19 symptoms in the early pandemic. In the period July through October, there was an upward trend in musculoskeletal symptoms and some colloquial terms/well-known musculoskeletal conditions coupled with a downward trend in general musculoskeletal disorder terms and certain specific diagnoses. This information may help rheumatologists understand public interest in musculoskeletal symptoms and disorders and address the needs of patients to mitigate the negative impact of the pandemic on outcomes.