COVID-19 Symptom: Body Aches
Written by Ada’s Medical Knowledge Team
- A common symptom of COVID is body aches
- Body aches can occur in various parts of the body but are often in the head and neck region or in the limbs
- Over-the-counter pain medications can be used to treat body aches caused by COVID at home
- Body aches have been known to persist beyond the time of infection, known as long COVID
Body aches and COVID frequently go together. Not only is it a common symptom of the COVID infection, but research has shown body aches appearing in the early days of infection, even before the common respiratory symptoms related to the disease, such as cough, sore throat, and runny nose. 1
You can experience COVID body aches almost anywhere, but they’re most common in the head, neck area, and limbs. They can also include your muscles, tendons, and ligaments, also known as muscle pain or myalgia. Body aches can go away on their own, but they can linger, and they’re often cited as one of the most frequent symptoms to persist after a COVID-19 infection, known as long COVID. 2
What causes body aches with COVID?
Body aches are a frequent symptom of COVID, and are often felt with other symptoms such as fatigue, cough, and headaches. This pain can go together with a fever, but the whole body can also ache without it. You can experience these body aches throughout the whole body in general, or they can occur in specific places. They mainly affect the head, the neck, and the limbs. Further research is needed to understand the association between COVID-19 and these locations.
COVID body aches feel like a dull, aching sensation in your muscles. You can feel as if your mobility is limited due to the pain. The pain can range from mild to severe and can occur if you already had body aches before the infection or if you didn’t.
What causes these body aches are the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptors that are located in various cells of the muscles. The coronavirus enters the cells through these receptors where it can cause direct damage. Once the coronavirus enters these cells, your immune system will react. The macrophages of the immune system are cells designed to locate and destroy harmful organisms such as the coronavirus. These macrophages are known to produce proinflammatory cytokines that cause inflammation of the tissue. Because of this inflammation, you can experience pain in the form of body aches. 3 4 5
Body aches can also occur as a side effect after the COVID vaccination. The severity of this side effect can vary from person to person and should go away in a few days. You can experience body aches as a side effect after the first or booster shots. 6
How long do body aches last with COVID?
The body aches associated with the coronavirus are usually an early symptom of infection. In many cases, they’ll go away on their own after a few days or weeks.
However, a considerable amount of people experience body aches after COVID. If this is the case, you might have long COVID, a situation where the symptoms of a COVID infection persist after the infection has cleared. Research suggests that body aches last about 45 days on average. According to studies, the reason behind this is an inflammation of the nervous system caused by the immune system as a reaction to the coronavirus. In some cases, this can cause chronic pain, which may affect your quality of life. As these muscle aches often last for a long time, pain control and monitoring is important. 3
What else can cause body aches?
- Infection with a virus such as the common cold, the flu, and the coronavirus
- Working out
To be sure of the cause of your body aches, it’s important to keep any other symptoms that you may be experiencing in mind. If you’re in doubt, a COVID test can help determine whether or not you’ve been infected with the coronavirus. If you are, you should rest, seek COVID treatment and keep some distance from others to avoid infecting them. If your test points out that you haven’t been infected with the coronavirus, then you should consult with your doctor to look at other possible causes of your body aches.
What helps with body aches from COVID?
COVID body aches usually go away on their own without any extra treatment. Drinking plenty of fluids and resting while your immune system fights the infection is usually the best option. If you’re looking to relieve your pain, ibuprofen or paracetamol may be options.
Hot and cold therapy can also be used to relieve COVID-19 body aches. Taking a hot bath or shower to may help relax sore muscles and reduce pain, while applying an ice pack to the affected area may reduce inflammation.
If the pain persists after the infection, consult with your doctor for monitoring and treatment, as you may be experiencing symptoms of long COVID.
Body aches often present themselves at the onset of a COVID infection. They usually go away on their own after a few days or weeks, but they can sometimes linger on after the infection has cleared. If you’re experiencing persistent body aches after a COVID infection, consult with your doctor to see which treatment strategy would be beneficial for you.
Q: Is it normal to have body aches during COVID-19?
A: Yes, body aches are one of the most common symptoms of COVID-19. The body aches can feel like a flu-like discomfort and can be felt in the muscles and joints.
Q: Is a hot bath good for COVID-19 body aches?
A: A hot bath may temporarily relieve body aches associated with COVID-19.
Q: Can COVID-19 be just body aches without fever?
A: Yes, COVID-19 can present with symptoms such as body aches without fever.
Q: Why are COVID-19 aches worse at night?
A: The body's natural sleep and wake cycle, the circadian rhythm, may play a role in pain perception. At night, when the body is in a state of rest, pain may be more pronounced because there are fewer distractions, and the body is not as active.