All common aches and pains are more likely to be triggered or aggravated by any infection.
Perhaps COVID-19 more than most — simply because it’s unusually good at causing widespread body aching, and necks are included in that.
But neck pain doesn’t stand out any more than any other common locations for aching or soreness (with the exception of headache, which stands out in 8–14% of cases.
Infamously, meningitis causes severe neck pain and stiffness.
That is not a prominent feature of COVID-19 so far, or of any other infection, because infections always lower our pain thresholds.
If you were already at risk of a flare-up of neck pain, it could emerge during any infection, exposed like a rock that is only visible at low tide.
Some COVID patients have worse neck pain that others, but it’s likely that says more about their vulnerability to neck pain than it does about COVID-19.
In other words, influenza might cause the same flare-up of neck pain.
Sharp, stabbing, and shooting neck pains are usually false alarms
Sharp neck pain is not in itself a red flag.
Believe it or not there is no common worrisome cause of neck pain that is indicated by a sharp quality.
In fact, oddly, sharp pains are actually a bit reassuring, despite how they feel.
In isolation — with no other obvious problem.
They usually indicate that you just have a temporary, minor source of irritation in the cervical spine.
Serious causes of neck pain like infections, tumours, and spinal cord problems tend grind you down with throbbing pains, not “stab” you.
Sharp, shooting pains are mostly neurological false alarms about relatively trivial musculoskeletal troubles:
your brain reacting over-protectively to real-but-trivial irritations in and around the spine.
The brain takes these much more seriously than it really needs to, but evolution has honed us to be oversensitive in this way.
That’s not to say that the brain is always over-reacting, but it usually is.
Most of the time, a sharp pain is a warning you can ignore.
The cervical spine is also surrounded by a thick, tangled web of nerves.
In general, those nerves are amazingly difficult to irritate, much harder than people think, but it’s not impossible.
Many sharp and shooting neck pains are probably caused by minor neuropathy (pain from nerve irritation) that will ease gradually over several days or a few weeks at the worst, like a bruise healing.
It’s unpleasant, but not actually scary, like banging your funny bone (ulnar nerve)
That thing can really take a licking and keep on ticking.
So can the nerves in your neck.
Is a stiff neck serious?
Nearly all neck stiffness is minor, diffuse musculoskeletal pain:
several mildly irritated structures adding up to uncomfortable; reluctant movement as opposed to physically limited movement.
The most common scary neck stiffness is the “nuchal rigidity” of meningitis.
It makes it very difficult and uncomfortable to tilt the head forward.
It is accompanied by other serious warning signs, of course.
Like feeling gross otherwise (flu-like malaise).
If you have severe neck stiffness for a long time; plus any other warning signs, there could be a worrisome cause — but still probably not, and probably not urgent.
Investigate if you have enough red flags; and even then it’s likely to amount to nothing.