Leah Durant | Vaccine Attorney - Vaccine Blog

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Pain After Flu Shot: What Is Normal (and What Isn’t)?

Pain after a flu shot is normal. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describe this pain as “soreness,” and the CDC says this pain should generally be confined to the injection site. It should also generally subside within 24 to 48 hours. But, what if you want to reduce your pain so that you can relax or work in comfort? Or, what if your pain doesn’t go away?

Dealing with pain after a flu shot can be challenging. But, most people will be able to take steps to relieve their flu shot pain more quickly—and in some cases, reduce the amount of pain they experience overall. In this article, we discuss what is normal, what isn’t normal, options for treating pain after a flu shot, and when pain may be a sign of a flu shot injury.

Pain After a Flu Shot: What Is Normal?

After a flu shot, it is fairly typical to experience soreness around the injection site. This soreness will often be accompanied by redness and swelling. As explained in an article on Today.com, “it's just inflammation. One way to look at it is that the soreness is a sign that the vaccine is doing its job.” However, the article also notes that lack of pain isn’t necessarily a sign that the vaccine isn’t working because “[d]ifferent people have different reactions to the vaccine.”

Mild soreness caused by a flu shot may onset immediately or develop overnight. This soreness will often worsen with pressure (i.e., laying on your arm) or with certain movements (i.e., trying to lift the elbow above the head). Generally speaking, however, pain after a flu shot should be manageable, and it should not significantly limit a person’s ability to perform routine activities of daily living.

Options for Reducing and Relieving Normal Pain After a Flu Shot

Even though a certain amount of pain after a flu shot is expected, some people may prefer to avoid it, or they may want (or need) their pain to go away as soon as possible. To reduce the likelihood of experiencing pain, Kaiser Permanente recommends staying relaxed during the injection. “Try to keep your arm relaxed at your side, in a neutral position.” Tensing up can increase the impact on the muscles in the shoulder, thus leading to increased shoulder pain post-injection.

After a flu shot, various sources recommend taking steps including the following to ease and relieve soreness as effectively and quickly as possible:

  • Apply Ice – Applying ice at the injection site can reduce inflammation, resulting in reduced pain.

  • Apply a Warm Compress – Heat relaxes the muscles, and this can also serve as a pain-relieving function. Experts recommend that flu shot recipients try both ice and a warm compress and stick with whichever one works best.

  • Keep the Arm Moving – Keeping the arm stationary can allow inflammation to take hold. As a result, doing some basic movements, light exercise or stretching (or all of the above) can help reduce pain after a flu shot.

  • Rest – While it can be helpful to use your arm after a flu shot, it is also important not to overdo it. Resting your body will allow it to build up its immune response more quickly, thus limiting your recovery time.

  • Use Over-the-Counter (OTC) Pain Relievers – According to Kaiser Permanente, “[t]aking a pain reliever[] an hour or two before or right after your flu shot appointment can help ward off that sore arm feeling and reduce swelling.” Ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), and acetaminophen (Tylenol) are all options, and individuals should consult with their physicians as necessary.

Pain After a Flu Shot: What Isn’t Normal?

So, what isn’t normal when it comes to pain after a flu shot? Basically, anything other than mild soreness at the injection site is a potential cause for concern. While not necessarily indicative of a flu shot injury, symptoms associated with shoulder injuries related to vaccine administration (SIRVA) and other flu shot injuries include:

  • Pain that radiates away from the injection site (i.e., extends down the arm or moves past the shoulder)

  • Pain that can be described as sharp or severe

  • Pain that does not begin to go away after 48 hours

  • Pain that gets worse instead of better

  • Pain accompanied by a tingling or “prickling” sensation, breathing problems, dizziness, feeling faint, vomiting or diarrhea, or an increased heart rate

What To Do When Experiencing Unusual Pain After a Flu Shot

Anyone who has concerns about their (or their loved one’s) pain after a flu shot should seek medical treatment promptly. Even if the pain turns out to be normal, there is absolutely nothing wrong with seeking a medical opinion. However, if the pain is not normal, then obtaining a prompt diagnosis and beginning treatment immediately could significantly reduce the risk of long-term (or permanent) complications.

While injuries and illnesses linked to the flu shot are rare, they happen occasionally. Unusual pain after a flu shot may be indicative of:

  • Anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction)

  • Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP)

  • Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS)

  • Parsonage-Turner Syndrome (brachial neuritis)

  • Shoulder injury related to vaccine administration (SIRVA)

In addition to consulting with a physician, individuals and parents who have concerns about flu shot injuries and illnesses should learn about their legal rights under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP). Recovering from a flu shot injury or illness can be a long, painful and expensive process, and filing a VICP claim can help relieve the financial stress associated with recovery. Read our FAQs to learn more.

Do You Have a VICP Claim for a Flu Shot Injury or Illness?

Filing a successful VICP claim can be challenging, but you can hire a vaccine attorney to handle your claim at no cost to you. If you would like to know more, we encourage you to contact us promptly for a free consultation. To discuss your legal rights with vaccine attorney Leah V. Durant in confidence, please call 202-800-1711 or request an appointment online today.


Leah Durant Bio

Experienced litigation attorney Leah Durant focuses on representing clients in complex vaccine litigation matters. Leah Durant is the owner and principal attorney of the Law Offices of Leah V. Durant, PLLC, a litigation firm based in Washington, DC. Leah Durant and her staff represent clients and their families who suffer from vaccine-related injuries, adverse vaccine reactions and vaccine-related deaths. The Law Offices of Leah V. Durant, PLLC is dedicated to assisting individuals in recovering the highest level of compensation as quickly and efficiently as possible. To learn more, contact vaccine attorney Leah Durant today.

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