Neck Pain and Stiffness Could Be a Symptom of COVID-19


May 31 2023, Updated 3:29 p.m. ET

woman in yellow sweater rubbing neck
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Years into the coronavirus pandemic, scientists are still learning about the virus. COVID-19 has impacted climate, health, education, job markets, and much more. Among the potential symptoms of COVID-19, some may wonder if neck pain from COVID-19 is likely.

Let's look at the most common symptoms of COVID-19 and how long they can last.

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Neck pain has been associated with COVID-19, as well as overall neck stiffness. Just how serious neck pain from COVID-19 can be depends on individual circumstances. It's important to know what to expect as far as symptoms of COVID-19 so you can seek medical care in serious cases.

Man in bed grimacing with neck pain
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Can COVID-19 cause neck pain?

As Medical News Today explains, one of the most common symptoms of COVID-19 is muscle pain, and for many people, muscle pain "concentrates in the neck, shoulders, and back." One review in the Egyptian Journal of Neurology, Psychiatry, and Neurosurgery found that between 11 percent and 62.5 percent of COVID-19 patients surveyed experienced muscle pain.

Here's why COVID-19 may come with neck pain.

According to Medical News Today, inflammation in the muscles can cause pain. When a person has a fever (very common with COVID-19 infection), the body’s immune system may triggers reactions that promote inflammation. Your immune system at work is a good thing, but the inflammation may also cause pain in muscles, including those in the neck.

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Everyday Health backs this up as well. COVID-19 causes an inflammatory response, and inflammation can make any body part hurt or ache. Some doctors say that long-lasting inflammation could be to blame for some long COVID muscle pain.

Another possible cause is that "the virus may bind to angiotensin converting enzyme 2 receptors in the muscles." That, Medical News Today says, could cause pain and soreness in each muscle.

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Black woman sitting in bed rubbing her neck
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There's also the probability that someone who is ill with COVID-19 will spend a lot of their time in bed or slouched in a chair trying to rest. Staying in bed longer than normal, or resting in positions you're not used to, could also lead to neck pain as well as pain throughout the body. Stiffness from a lack of movement could also be a result of COVID-19.

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Can neck pain be a sign of COVID-19?

Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not specifically identify neck pain as a symptom or sign of COVID-19, it does count "muscle or body aches" as one of the primary possible indicators of infection. Muscle or body aches could include neck pain, so it's certainly possible to experience neck pain before being diagnosed with COVID-19.

According to Sixty and Me, neck pain is something COVID-19 patients frequently complain about. In some cases it's even one of the first signals to the person that they need to be tested for the virus. However, this does not mean that experiencing neck pain automatically indicates COVID-19 infection.

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Neck pain can occur with long COVID, or signal something else.

Some individuals suffering with "long COVID" have reported continued muscle pain. Everyday Health reports that people with COVID-19 tended to have pain in the neck, back, shoulder, and other areas, where they hadn't experienced that type of pain before.

In some rare cases, neck pain can signal something worse: meningitis or thyroid conditions, for example. As Mayo Clinic observes, neck stiffness is a symptom of meningitis, along with sudden high fever, severe headache, nausea, and other signs. Contact your physician if you suspect your symptoms could be a sign that you need urgent medical attention.

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