A sudden onset of joint pain can be a symptom of COVID-19. Joint pain can also occur with long COVID-19. Scientists believe it results from inflammation. Medications and exercise can help ease joint pain.

COVID-19 is an illness that develops as a result of the SARS-CoV-2 viral infection and has well-known respiratory symptoms. However, it can also result in acute or chronic joint pain.

This article looks at how joint pain can develop as a result of COVID-19 and during long COVID-19. It will then discuss how doctors treat this joint pain, before looking at other conditions that cause painful joints.

Coronavirus data

All data and statistics are based on publicly available data at the time of publication. Some information may be out of date. Visit our coronavirus hub for the most recent information on COVID-19.

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COVID-19 can cause joint pain during the SARS-CoV-2 infection itself.

A 2021 study states that joint pain is one of the most common symptoms of COVID-19, arising in roughly 15% of people with COVID-19.

A study in the Journal of Pain Research states that joint pain may be more common in people with more severe COVID-19. This is unlike other pain symptoms, such as muscle pain.

Scientists are unsure about the connection between joint pain and COVID-19. There is some evidence that this condition can cause inflammatory arthritis in some people.

However, not everyone with COVID-19 develops inflammatory arthritis. A 2020 study instead suggests that COVID-19 might cause joint pain via more generic inflammatory mechanisms.


The aforementioned 2020 study explains that there are no established medical guidelines on how to treat joint pain as a result of COVID-19.

However, a person can take over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications, such as ibuprofen and paracetamol.

Despite initial concerns that ibuprofen was unsafe to take with COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends taking ibuprofen to help treat symptoms of COVID-19.

Learn more about ibuprofen and COVID-19.

Some research indicates that in people whose joint pain is arthritis-like, certain medications can be quite effective. These include low-dose glucocorticoids and disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs)

Scientists will continue to research the best ways of treating joint pain from COVID-19.

Some individuals experience symptoms even after recovering from COVID-19. Many people know this syndrome as long COVID-19.

The United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) notes that the most common symptoms of long COVID-19 include:

  • fatigue
  • shortness of breath
  • a loss of smell
  • muscle aches


Both oral steroids and steroid injections can help people manage this symptom of long COVID-19.

Some OTC pain medications may also help with joint pain associated with long COVID-19.

However, an individual should seek medical advice about taking medications to manage this pain, particularly if they intend on taking these medications long term.

People may also be able to manage joint pain at home. The NHS recommends slowly maintaining or returning to physical activities, including:

  • stretching
  • yoga
  • tai chi
  • climbing stairs
  • working with resistance bands
  • gardening
  • cycling
  • walking uphill

However, it is important that a person paces themselves. If their pain is stopping them from completing their task, a person should stop and try again later.

To manage joint pain, a person can:

  • plan what they need to do that day
  • find ways to relax, if possible
  • take part in regular exercise, even in small amounts
  • speak with loved ones
  • do things they enjoy

There are many possible causes of joint pain, which range from injury to an underlying disease. The following are common causes of joint pain:

Learn more about joint pain and its causes here.

A person should contact a doctor if they are experiencing joint pain, particularly if it is affecting their ability to perform daily tasks.

People should also contact a doctor if their joint pain accompanies symptoms of COVID-19. These symptoms include:

Research shows that some people are at an increased risk of serious complications from COVID-19. These individuals include older people and those with a compromised immune system.

If such a person has symptoms of COVID-19, it is especially important that they contact a doctor.

Although COVID-19 has well-known respiratory symptoms, this condition can also cause joint pain. Scientists believe that this might occur due to increased inflammation. There is even some indication that COVID-19 sometimes causes arthritis, although the research on this remains unclear.

Joint pain is one of the more common symptoms of COVID-19. It may be more prevalent as a symptom of long COVID-19. Joint pain from COVID-19 may be more common in people with a more serious form of the condition.

Scientists have found that steroids and DMARDs can help alleviate COVID-19 joint pain. However, there is not yet a standardized treatment for this symptom.