COVID-19 Symptoms: Leg Pain
Written by Ada’s Medical Knowledge Team
- Leg pain and cramps are common symptoms of COVID.
- There’s not a clear consensus on what causes COVID leg pain, but it’s believed to be a reaction to the virus or the body’s immune response.
- Pain medications, elevating your leg, rest, and cool compresses can all provide relief for leg pain caused by COVID .
- Most cases of leg pain due to COVID tend to resolve themselves after 10-14 days.
According to the CDC, leg pain and cramps are common symptoms of COVID-19, along with other muscle and joint pains. Leg pain may be experienced as a general ache or soreness, or it may be more severe and feel like cramping or spasms.
Leg pain can occur with or without other symptoms of COVID, such as fever, cough, and fatigue. In addition, muscle and bone pain, including in the legs, is a common feature of long COVID, which is when symptoms persist past the post-acute phase of the infection. 1
What causes COVID leg pain?
More research is needed to understand the connection between COVID and leg pain, but some of the possible theories behind this symptom include: 2
- Damaged cell receptors. The virus attaches to a receptor called ACE2 on the surface of skeletal muscle cells, allowing the virus to enter and infect the cell.
- Overactive immune response. When the body's immune system responds to a viral attack, it releases a type of protein called cytokine. In some instances, the immune system can release an oversupply of cytokines. This causes a dangerous surge in inflammation called a “cytokine storm.” Excessive inflammation can lead to muscle pain and weakness. Some of the specific cytokines released during this response can interfere with the normal process of muscle building and maintenance, leading to muscle damage.
- Pre-existing conditions. Leg aches and cramps experienced by COVID-19 patients may be caused by pre-existing neuromuscular, muscular, or autoimmune disorders rather than the virus itself.
How long can COVID leg pain last?
The duration of COVID-19 leg pain can vary, and it may depend on the severity of the infection and any underlying health conditions. You may experience leg pain for a few days, or it may persist for several weeks or longer.
The acute phase of COVID-19 infection generally lasts about 1-2 weeks, during which symptoms may be more severe. After this initial period, you may begin to feel better and may experience a gradual improvement in your symptoms, including leg pain and cramping. However, sometimes symptoms can last for several months or longer. One study found that among individuals with long COVID, 44.8% reported musculoskeletal symptoms, including leg pain. 3
The long-term effects of COVID-19 are still being studied, and more research is needed to fully understand the duration of symptoms, including leg aches and pains.
How can you treat COVID leg pain?
The treatment for COVID-19 leg pain depends on its underlying cause and severity. If the virus causes the pain, managing COVID-19 symptoms while supporting the body's natural healing process is crucial. Treatment options may include:
- Rest. Avoid strenuous activities like intense workouts that could worsen your pain. Take the time to rest and allow your body to heal.
- Elevate your legs. Elevating your legs with pillows can promote better blood flow, reduce swelling, and relieve muscle tension.
- Use an ice pack. Applying an ice pack to your leg pain can help reduce inflammation, prevent swelling, and numb the pain.
- Massage. A gentle leg massage can help ease pain, relieve muscle soreness, and promote relaxation.
- Light stretching. Light stretching exercises can help decrease muscle soreness and alleviate leg pain.
- Use medication as prescribed. If your leg pain is severe, your doctor may prescribe medication to help manage your symptoms.
- A relaxing bath with warm water and Epsom salt. This can help the muscles to relax and heal.
Other factors unrelated to COVID-19 can also cause leg aches, so if you're unsure whether your symptoms are related to COVID, it's best to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis.
Leg pain and cramps are common symptoms of COVID-19, which can occur during the acute phase of the infection or long COVID. While the exact cause of leg aches and pain in COVID patients is unknown, doctors believe it may be related to inflammation caused by the virus.
The treatment for leg pain and aches due to COVID-19 will vary depending on the severity and underlying cause of the condition. Managing COVID-19 symptoms, addressing underlying health conditions, and seeking medical attention in severe cases are all potential treatment options.
Understanding the causes and available treatments for leg pain caused by COVID-19 can help individuals prevent and manage this condition and safeguard their health.
Q: Is leg pain a symptom of COVID?
A: Leg pain is a possible symptom of COVID-19. Muscle pain and body aches are frequently reported symptoms of the disease.
Q: Why do my legs hurt with COVID?
A: COVID-19 is known to cause inflammation throughout the body, and this can lead to muscle pain and soreness, which can affect the legs. In addition to inflammation, COVID-19 can also cause blood clots which can lead to pain and swelling in the legs.
Q: What does COVID leg pain feel like?
A: COVID-19 leg pain can feel different for each person and may vary in intensity and duration. Some people with COVID-19 may experience mild leg pain or soreness, while others may have more severe pain or discomfort. The pain may be dull or sharp, and it may be constant or intermittent. Some people with COVID-19 may also experience swelling or redness in the legs, which may signify a blood clot.
Q: How long does COVID leg pain last?
A: Leg pain and cramps related to COVID may only last a few days, or they can last for several weeks and even be part of a long COVID diagnosis. The acute phase of COVID-19 infection generally lasts about 1-2 weeks, during which leg pain symptoms may be more severe. After this initial period, leg pain should improve.