As we’ve detailed previously, shoulder injuries related to vaccine administration (otherwise known as “SIRVA”) are the most common injuries resulting from flu shots and other vaccines. SIRVA can happen when a vaccine is injected into the capsule of your shoulder joint instead of your deltoid muscle. It can also occur if the needle being used is not the correct gauge or length for you, or if it’s administered too high on your shoulder or too deeply into your muscle. Since it is normal to experience temporary shoulder pain after receiving a vaccination, it may be worth going over some important differences and distinctions between normal shoulder pain and what might be the symptoms of a more serious shoulder injury from a vaccination.

Localized shoulder pain at the site of your vaccine injection may be normal as there can be pain caused by the needle being inserted into the soft tissue or muscle of your arm. It can feel like a bruise, and you may experience a little bit of swelling as well. This type of normal pain will typically go away after 2-3 days and even though your arm can be quite sore, the important distinction here is that you’ll still have full range of motion and normal function of your arm. In other words, despite the soreness, you can still move your arm freely up and down if you had to without restriction.

The symptoms of SIRVA are different and are typically more severe than those described above. If not addressed, some of these symptoms could lead to long lasting shoulder issues. As I alluded to above, one of the main distinctions between normal shoulder pain after vaccination and SIRVA is how well your arm functions. If the needle was accidentally inserted into your joint or bursa sac for example, you will notice limited mobility and possibly limited strength in your arm. If left untreated and unaddressed, symptoms like this can manifest into more serious shoulder problems down the line and develop into adhesive capsulitis or frozen shoulder. Similarly, if the needle was inserted too high or too deeply, you can end up with shoulder bursitis, which means the needle was inserted beyond your muscular layer and directly into the bursa, causing it to become inflamed. In addition to the pain taking a lot longer than two or three days to subside, symptoms of bursitis can include discomfort when lying on your shoulder, pain on the outside or top of your shoulder, pain that gets worse when you lift your arm to the side, pain when pushing on or opening a door, and pain when trying to make a circle motion with your arm. Another injury you might see with a SIRVA is a rotator cuff injury or tendonitis. Symptoms of rotator cuff injuries can include difficulty achieving full range of shoulder motion, difficulty sleeping on the affected shoulder, pain or tenderness when reaching overhead, pain in the shoulder (especially at night), and progressive weakness in the shoulder.  Rotator cuff tears that are not treated can increase over time and may cause partial rotator cuff tears to progress to total tears.

If you have shoulder pain or any of the above symptoms after receiving a flu shot or other vaccination, you should contact a physician as soon as possible and inform them of your symptoms and advise them that they started after receiving the subject vaccination. Please contact our firm as soon as possible as well. Our firm is experienced in litigating vaccine injury claims on behalf of those suffering shoulder injuries and we would be happy to answer any questions that you may have as well as to discuss a potential claim for compensation. 

Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) or Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD)