Muscle and joint pain are frequently reported symptoms of COVID-19. Back pain is the most commonly reported, but many people have pain in other areas, like the neck, shoulders, and elsewhere.

COVID-19 is an infectious disease that results from the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) virus. The most common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and fatigue.

Another frequently reported symptom is muscle and joint pain, which can affect your neck and other areas of your body.

Here’s what you need to know about COVID-19 and neck pain, including research, treatment, and frequently asked questions.

Muscle pain, also called myalgia, is one of the most frequently reported symptoms of COVID-19 besides fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

As many as 40–60% of people with COVID-19 report muscle aches and pain. Some people report neck pain or head pain, while others report pain in the abdomen, back, pelvis, or joints.

The pain typically appears along with fever, cough, and fatigue and usually resolves on its own after recovery from the disease.

What the research says

A 2024 systematic review examined COVID-19 and neck pain across five studies involving more than 2,600 people. The researchers found evidence that COVID-19 may increase the onset and severity of neck pain, though two studies did not find any increase.

One reason COVID-19 may cause musculoskeletal pain is increased inflammation in the body. Researchers behind a 2022 review believe the virus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, may cause the body’s immune system to become overactive. This may lead to widespread inflammation in the body, causing muscle aches and pain.

Some studies have found an association between COVID-19 and an inflammatory condition called subacute thyroiditis. This condition can occur after an upper respiratory tract infection from COVID-19. The main symptoms of subacute thyroiditis are pain and soreness in the neck due to a swollen thyroid gland.

Other studies suggest that the transition to remote working during the pandemic has worsened workers’ musculoskeletal health, leading to increased reports of pain in the neck, back, and shoulders.

More research is needed to clarify the effect of COVID-19 on neck pain.

Is neck and shoulder pain a symptom of COVID-19?

In some cases, people with COVID-19 experience muscle aches and pain, including pain and soreness in the neck, shoulders, and other areas of the upper and lower body.

Neck and shoulder pain alone may not be a symptom of COVID-19. But if you experience neck and shoulder pain along with fever, cough, shortness of breath, or fatigue, those may be symptoms of COVID-19.

Can COVID-19 cause neck and back pain?

The most common musculoskeletal symptoms of COVID-19 include fatigue, muscle pain, joint pain, and back pain, according to the 2022 review.

A 2021 study of musculoskeletal symptoms in people with COVID-19 found that the most common pain region was the back. Most people reported pain in more than one area of the body, including back pain (30.4%), lower back pain (16.1%), and neck pain (11.4%).

Can COVID-19 cause neck pain and headaches?

Headaches are a less common symptom of COVID-19, reported in an estimated 13% of people. This is according to the same 2022 review.

The virus that causes COVID-19 can attack the central nervous system, leading to neurological symptoms like headaches, dizziness, and impaired consciousness.

In some cases, people may experience both neuropathic pain and musculoskeletal pain, which could lead to headaches and neck pain.

Some people experience long-term effects of COVID-19, called “long COVID.” The symptoms of long COVID vary from person to person and may last for weeks, months, or even years.

Common symptoms of long COVID include fatigue, shortness of breath, difficulty concentrating, and stomach pain.

People with long COVID also frequently report muscle and joint pain, which can include pain in the chest, head, and neck.

In many cases, neck pain from COVID-19 may be mild and manageable with at-home treatments.

Home remedies for neck pain include:

  • getting plenty of rest and staying hydrated
  • using a supportive pillow to reduce neck discomfort
  • gently stretching or massaging the neck
  • practicing good posture
  • taking over-the-counter pain relievers

Treatment for more severe or persistent muscle and joint pain from COVID-19 may include medications, exercise therapy, and complementary therapies.

Medications to treat neck pain may include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and corticosteroids.

Stretching exercises for neck pain include neck turns, forward head tilts, and shoulder rolls. These exercises can strengthen the muscles, improve stability, and reduce pain.

Some complementary therapies, like acupuncture, may also provide relief for neck pain, according to emerging research.

Here are the answers to frequently asked questions about COVID-19 and muscle pain.

Is muscle tightness a symptom of COVID-19?

Muscle aches and pains are common symptoms of COVID-19. Some people experience stiffness in the muscles and joints. These symptoms often appear in the shoulders, neck, back, hips, and knees.

How long do COVID-19 muscle aches last?

Symptoms of COVID-19 typically begin 5–6 days after exposure to the virus and last 1–14 days. Most people feel better within a few days or weeks and make a full recovery.

Do muscle relaxers help with COVID-19 muscle aches?

Doctors may prescribe muscle relaxers in addition to NSAIDs to ease muscle pain and swelling due to COVID-19. This is called multimodal pain management, as it targets multiple mechanisms of action for the pain.

Contact a doctor if you experience neck pain that:

  • is persistent or lasts longer than 2 weeks
  • worsens despite self-care
  • radiates down your arms or legs
  • is accompanied by headaches, weakness, numbness, or tingling

A doctor can assess what’s causing your neck pain and develop an effective treatment plan based on your symptoms.

Researchers believe that COVID-19 may cause muscle and joint pain due to increased inflammation from the body’s immune response.

In most cases, neck pain from COVID-19 is mild and manageable with home treatments. If you experience persistent or severe neck pain, contact a doctor.