Pain Symptoms in Patients with Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19): A Literature Review

J Pain Res. 2021 Jan 26;14:147-159. doi: 10.2147/JPR.S269206. eCollection 2021.


Purpose: On 11 March, 2020, the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak was declared as a global pandemic by the World Health Organization. It brought substantial physical and psychological burden on individuals and financial loss across countries. Patients with COVID-19 may exhibit various symptoms, such as fever, cough, dyspnea, muscle pain, sore throat, headache, chest pain, and abdominal pain, at 2-14 days after exposure to the novel coronavirus (severe acute respiratory syndrome [SARS]-CoV-2). Pain symptoms present important challenge to clinicians' diagnosis when treating COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms. Considering the increasing number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, the pain symptoms should be systematically summarized.

Results: The virus can invade different tissues of the body and cause different pain manifestations. SARS-CoV-2 primarily invades the respiratory system, and patients develop sore throat, fever, cough, and other pneumonia-associated symptoms. Moreover, it infects the nervous system (eg, headache, dizziness, and confusion), digestive system (eg, abdominal pain, diarrhea), and cardiovascular system (eg, chest pain, palmus, and cardiac injury). The incidence rate is 1.7-33.9% for headache, 0.7-47.1% for sore throat, 1.5-61.0% for myalgia/arthralgia, 1.6-17.7% for chest pain, and 1.9-14.5% for abdominal pain. In comparison with chest and abdominal pain, COVID-19 patients are more likely to develop headache, sore throat, and myalgia/arthralgia.

Conclusion: Different pain reflects the damage of different body systems. Therefore, the summary of pain symptoms for COVID-19 patients can help doctors improve the accuracy and efficiency of diagnosis when treating COVID-19 patients with atypical or mild symptoms and adopt more targeted treatment methods.

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; pain; symptom.

Publication types

  • Review

Grant support

This work was supported by Fok Ying-Tong Education Foundation of China (161092); The scientific and technological research program of the Shanghai Science and Technology Committee (Fund number: 19080503100); the Shanghai Key Lab of Human Performance (Shanghai University of Sport) (11DZ2261100).