COVID-19 Symptom: Joint Pain
Written by Ada’s Medical Knowledge Team
- About 15% of people with COVID-19 experience joint pain as an early symptom of the disease 1
- Joint pain may be due to inflammation of the joints caused by the virus, and limited activity during illness may contribute to stiffness and pain
- Other conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout can also cause joint pain
- Joint pain after COVID can be managed through rest, painkillers, and pacing oneself during activities
Joint pain is a common symptom of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus. Medically known as arthralgia, joint pain can be accompanied by muscle cramps or other signs of infection with the virus. What's more, joint pain is one of the most frequent symptoms to persist after the initial infection has resolved. In this article, we explore the link between COVID-19 and joint pain and discuss ways to manage joint pain caused by the virus.
Is joint pain a symptom of COVID-19?
COVID-19 may cause joint pain during the acute part of the infection. Studies suggest that 15% of people infected with the coronavirus experience joint pain as one of the early symptoms of the infection. This pain often accompanies painful muscles and other possible signs of COVID. Joint pain can be felt throughout the entire body, although some people may experience pain in local joints, such as the foot and the ankle, the knee, and the shoulder. 2
The inflammation of the joints may explain the relationship between COVID and joint pain. Limited daily activities, such as staying in bed and being less active due to illness, can lead to stiffness of the joints and may contribute to joint pain. The pro-inflammatory cytokines that are active in the body because of the infection can contribute to cartilage destruction. This strong, flexible tissue covers and protects your joints. As a result, the joints may degenerate and can become inflamed, which results in pain. 3 4
What else can cause joint pain?
Joint pain may be caused by several conditions, such as:
- A sprain, which may occur after strenuous exercise
- Osteoarthritis, which is a long-term disorder that causes damage to the cartilage and surrounding tissues. It’s characterized by pain, stiffness, and loss of function.
- Bursitis, which is an inflammation of a fluid-filled sac that protects the joints against friction and impacts
- Rheumatoid arthritis, which is an inflammatory arthritis. The inflamed joints include those of the hands and the feet. This condition causes swelling, pain, and destruction of joints. Morning stiffness is the hallmark symptom of rheumatoid arthritis.
- Gout, which is characterized by sudden, severe pain. The pain is usually located in the big toe but can also be present in other joints of the feet, the hands, wrists, elbows, or knees.
- Joint infections, which often go together with swelling of the joint and fever.
As many conditions may cause joint pain, paying attention to any other symptoms you may be experiencing is essential. If in doubt, a COVID test can help you confirm that the coronavirus causes your pain. Your doctor can help you find the underlying cause if your test returns negative.
What is the recommended post-COVID joint pain treatment?
Post-COVID joint pain may hinder some of your daily activities and cause emotional distress after some time, so it’s crucial to take measures to manage your pain. Some ways to ease your pain are: 5 6 7
- Taking regular small amounts of exercise to keep your muscles and joints moving
- Trying to relax to reduce the stress of being in pain
- Pacing yourself when doing certain chores or when exercising. If your pain keeps you from finishing something, then it’s best to take a break and to try again later.
- Resting the affected joint if you can
- Put an ice pack wrapped in a towel on the painful area for up to 20 minutes every 2 to 3 hours
- Take painkillers, such as ibuprofen or paracetamol. Follow directions or ask your healthcare provider if you need more clarification.
Apart from these tips, which you can incorporate into your daily schedule, you can also ask your doctor about further treatment options to manage your pain if your symptoms persist.
Joint pain is a possible sign of a coronavirus infection and a common symptom of long-COVID. As this pain can limit your daily activities, it’s important to take some actions to feel better. Your doctor can help you with advice and treatment.
Q: Does COVID cause joint pain?
A: COVID can cause joint pain both during the acute phase of the infection and afterward.
Q: Does COVID joint pain go away?
A: In many cases, COVID-related joint pain goes away on its own after the infection is resolved. However, for some people, joint pain can persist as a long-term symptom of COVID.
Q: How do you get rid of joint pain after COVID?
A: To manage post-COVID joint pain, it’s recommended to rest, reduce stress, pace oneself when doing certain activities and take painkillers as directed. Consultation with a doctor is also recommended for further treatment options if symptoms persist.
Q: Is it common to have joint pain after COVID?
A: Joint pain is a common symptom experienced by some individuals after coronavirus infection. Joint pain may persist for weeks or even months after the infection has cleared. This type of joint pain is often referred to as post-COVID-19 arthralgia.
Q: What does COVID joint pain feel like?
A: COVID joint pain can manifest in different ways. Some people may experience a dull ache in their joints, while others may feel a sharp or stabbing pain. The pain can be felt throughout the body or in specific joints such as the hands, feet, knees, and shoulders. COVID joint pain may also be accompanied by swelling, redness, and warmth in the affected area. In some cases, the joint pain may be severe enough to limit a person's range of motion and ability to perform daily activities.
Q: What should I do if I'm experiencing muscle and joint pain from COVID-19?
A: Generally, rest and pain relievers can help you manage any joint pain from COVID. If you are experiencing severe muscle and joint pain from COVID-19, contact your doctor for personalized advice and recommend treatment options.
Q: Why does COVID cause joint pain?
A: Pro-inflammatory cytokines that are active in the body because of the infection can contribute to cartilage destruction. This strong, flexible tissue covers and protects your joints. This can inflame the joints which results in pain. Additionally, limited daily activities, such as staying in bed and being less active due to illness, can lead to stiffness of the joints and may also contribute to joint pain.