Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up
Includes Expert Content
Arm/Shoulder Still EXTREMELY Painful after Flu Shot Over 3 Weeks Ago..
avatar
Myarmhurtstoo posted:
I got the flu shot this year as I do every year. That was over 3 weeks ago and my arm/shoulder still hurts. It was so bad that last week I went to the doc after reading threads online. He said we could spend a lot of money on tests (which may come back inconclusive) and physical therapy (which may not really speed up the healing process) but in the end it is probably just a matter of time. He DID give me a steriod pack which I finished yesterday morning...the last pill. The steriods helped immediately, however yesterday when I woke up the stiffness is back in the shoulder and has gotten worse. Today I could barely get dressed.

At its worst, the pain was so bad that when I tried to remove my gown over my head I doubled over...unable to the complete the task. I had tingling and numbness in my arm and fingers, and down into my shoulder blade. At times the pain travels down into my pec muscles and into my arm pit. I have never had anything like this from past flu shots other than a little arm soreness that lasted a couple of days. This is different. We believe (at my office) that the shot was a little high and also a bit further towards the back of the shoulder than in past years.

Right now I can apply pressure to the spot where the shot was given and feel a dull pain all the way down into my shoulder muscle and arm. Cannot sleep on my left side and simple things like carrying a purse or pulling the covers up cause intense, shooting pain. Had to get groceries last nite and was able to do it (even though it REALLY hurt) so there doesn't appear to be a lot of weakness right now. The pain seems to be worse while in bed trying to sleep and in the morning. Esp in the morning...

Because of a lowered kidney function my doc has told me to limit NSAID intake. This is bad news since that is the only thing that actually helped the pain. Since I can't afford expensive tests or PT right now (and from reading the blogs they don't really seem to help much in the diagnosis or recovery) I'm gonna give it a little time...unless it gets worse and becomes unbearable again. I plan to keep checking back here and reporting the progress. I DID feel better after reading the posts because I realized this was apparently not just some funky anomaly that only I was experiencing.

I am probably going back in to see my doc to let him know about the result of the steroids (immediate relief) as well as the sudden return of the pain as bad as (or worse) than before when the steriods were stopped. This is very depressing...I try to do what I can to be healthy and I actually wind up causing a problem. I have read that it could be needle placement (i.e. nerve, punctured bursa, muscle hematoma) or a reaction to the vaccine itself (preservatives, etc.). I am a 51 yr old female always received a flu shot never more than soreness for a couple of days. Guess I'm hoping for a miracle...everyone else reporting these symptoms indicates that recovery is VERY slow and takes many months up to a year. However, I have yet to see where someone pinpointed EXACTLY what the problem was...
Reply
 
avatar
Rod Moser, PA, PhD responded:
Personally, I don't feel that it is likely the vaccine causing the problem, but rather the needle itself. Needles are really blindly plunged into your skin, typically in safe areas. However, if you just happened to be anatomically wired to have a nerve in the direct path of this needle, or even a blood vessel that bleeds around the injection site, one can experience nerve damage. Assuming the medical assistant injected you in the correct area with correct technique, this may have been an unpredictable event.

In most cases, this will resolve in time. When? No way to predict duration. Because you did respond to the steroids -- a powerful anti-inflammatory -- your symptoms may be related to the inflammation at the injection site. This is really good news since inflammation DOES resolve (in time).

Time heals, so hopefully this will be the case for you.
 
avatar
Myarmhurtstoo replied to Rod Moser, PA, PhD's response:
UPDATE: Well I went back to the doc Friday afternoon. I told him how the Medrol pak helped and how the pain had returned within 24 hours of the last pill. That the only thing that would touch the pain were NSAIDs. So, since I normally stay away from steriods he said another round of Medrol would be OK. Also he said because the kidney function number he was concerned about was so close to normal and the BUN and Creatine numbers were normal, he was going to put me back on Mobic once I hit the 3-pill day of the Medrol pak. I also shared with him what I have learned from this site and others. So the game plan is to follow Medrol with Mobic and give it a couple more weeks. If the pain is not much improved he will refer me to a shoulder doc for evaluation and possible cortisone injection. Honestly I cannot afford expensive PT right now but HAVE been doing gentle stretches, etc. Knock on wood but I don't seem to have any range of motion issues if I can stand the pain. So, today shoulder is kinda achy but tolerable, today is 3-pill day so I will start the Mobic tonight. I should know by the end of the week if there is any improvement.
 
avatar
Rod Moser, PA, PhD replied to Myarmhurtstoo's response:
Thanks for the update and stay optimistic....the body has a remarkable way of healing itself, given enough time.
 
avatar
Myarmhurtstoo replied to Rod Moser, PA, PhD's response:
UPDATE: I began taking the Mobic (7.5mg daily) when I had was on day 4 of the Medrol dose pak. That was Monday the 11th and I took the last steriod Wednesday the 13th. All was good until Sunday the 17th. I woke up with my arm and shoulder hurting and my fingers tingling/numb. I do not believe I did anything to aggrevate it...guess the steriods lasted a bit longer this time. And now there is a NEW symptom. My shoulder is popping and cracking some. It has NEVER done that before...I don't know if it is a good sign or a bad sign. Very frustrated...the next step is have my GP refer me to a shoulder guy. I cannot afford MRIs and Physical Therapy.
It has now been 5 weeks since the Flu Shot. I found out that the wives of two of our employees are having the same problems (they rec'd the shot the same day I did at the office). The younger one who is in her 30s is doing better but not over it. The one that is around my age 50s is still having trouble like I am. Today is Tuesday the 19th and the pain is less than Sunday. I am taking 15mg daily of Mobic (rather than the prescribed 7.5mg) since Sunday and maybe that is helping a bit. Pain on Sunday was about a 7 or 8. Today maybe 5 or 6 unless I move in one of the many ways that aggrevates the condition.
So not planning on going back to the doc but if the pain continues with no more improvement or gets worse...guess I will. I hate to think that I've got to live with this pain for another 6 mos or a year...
 
avatar
Rod Moser, PA, PhD replied to Myarmhurtstoo's response:
You can't predict that.....

We give over a hundred flu shots in my clinic every day and no one is experiencing any procedural adverse reactions like you are experiencing.

Yes, see the shoulder specialist so you can take your evaluation to a higher level. Sometimes, we do have to make painful economic decisions regarding the level of medical care that we receive, but this does not change the NEED to do these tests or therapeutic measures. What if you broke your leg and had to receive expensive surgery and rehabilitation? You would find a way....since you have no other choice. Make the right decision, please.
 
avatar
Myarmhurtstoo replied to Rod Moser, PA, PhD's response:
UPDATE: OK, since the shoulder started hurting Sunday the 17th (after finishing the Medrol on the 13th) the pain kinda came and went during the following week. However, last Friday Oct 22nd I woke up with my shoulder hurting really bad and locked up/difficult to move. With heat and meds I was able to get dressed and come into work later. So back to the doc that afternoon. He talked with the shoulder doc and they gave me two choices. Either try a longer 10 day round of steriods (5,5,4,4,3,3,2,2,1,1) which isn't great for you but they felt it was a valid choice given my med history, or off to the shoulder doc for steriod shot in the shoulder. My doctor told me it was my choice but he was 51% to 49% for the steriod shot. I guess I just wasn't ready for that so I am on day 7 of the 10 day steriods. I also began taking the Mobic this morning since today is a 2 pill steriod day. Of course the steriods helped within 24 hours but I feel like maybe this course did not have as dramatic a result (maybe my imagination) as the first one.

I guess I keep hoping that during the interim there will be enough improvement that I won't need to have further treatment. Although at this point that hope has been dashed a bit. The shoulder doc told my GP that he had never heard of anyone having this problem but at least did not say it couldn't happen or was in my head. My GP asked that I print him off the "good stuff" that I found in my hours of research for him to look at...which is one of the reasons I really like my GP. He doesn't think he knows everything and actually listens to and responds to patient issues without already having formed an opinion that can't be swayed.

At work last Friday I asked my boss how his wife's shoulder was doing and he told me she had been back to the doctor and was now on a Medrol Pak, that it really helped, etc. you know the story. They both know my experience with the steriods and I need to ask again how she is doing since finishing the Medrol.

I am very apprehensive about what will happen after I finish the steriods. It's almost kinda cruel that you can take something that really gives relief but it's not good for you and it is not a solution. So this is do or die, if the pain does not return (crossed fingers) I'm good. However, if it again becomes such that I cannot perform daily functions without a lot of pain I will get the steriod injection. I have had several fellow sufferers inform me that's what finally gave them relief. One was in pain for 7 months until the shot, says it's been good now 3 months post-shot.

So, guess I'll make it through Halloween semi-pain free depending on my costume choice! I am also taking my first ballroom dance class tonight (I really suck) which I imagine will get my mind off my shoulder for a few days while my feet, knees and hips hurt ha!

Six weeks since the flu shot and still counting....I really appreciate your concern in the previous post and the urging me to seek proper care. And I will but I try to do pragmatically and have been lucky to work with doctors that are not too quick to schedule expensive tests, etc. if they feel they are not likely to help in the diagnosis or treatment. So, I guess time will tell. Thanks for your responses!
 
avatar
Rod Moser, PA, PhD replied to Myarmhurtstoo's response:
I still have one eyebrow raised over the flu shot being the sole underlying cause of your shoulder pain. I appreciate the update on your progress (or lack of) and hope that you find COMPLETE relief soon....regardless of the cause.
 
avatar
ddc45 replied to Rod Moser, PA, PhD's response:
Hello,

I found this discussion through a search for 'arm hurting fingers numb after flu shot'. I am having the same symptoms. Four days after receiving the flu shot, I awoke with a stiff neck. The next day, it had moved down into my shoulder, armpit, upper chest. Now, over four weeks later, I am still having pain all down my left arm, index and middle fingers are numb, and my whole arm gets tingly at times. I have been to a general practitioner and she says that maybe a nerve was damaged during the injection and nerves just take time to heal. I'm considering going to a neurologist, but am unsure if they can really do anything to help either.

I just wanted to say that you're not the only one and I am convinced that it is from the flu shot, as I have not done anything else that could have caused an injury.
 
avatar
Rod Moser, PA, PhD replied to ddc45's response:
A shot in the arm is not going to cause pain in your neck...nerves do not go in that direction. It is possible to have a nerve damaged "south" of the shot, but not north. Assuming the injection was given properly -- the right area -- the chance of ANY nerve damage is remote.

Is is possible you have an undiagnosed cervical spine problem that just coincidentally happend to rear its ugly head four days after your flu shot?
 
avatar
ddc45 replied to Rod Moser, PA, PhD's response:
I watched the RN give the shot prior to mine and I noticed that she did not pinch up the skin, nor did she pull back on the plunger before giving the injection. I also felt that it was higher and a little more toward the back of the shoulder. I am questioning that the injection was given properly. Maybe I should have said something to her. I thought she should know what she was doing though- ???

As for the cervical spine problem, I have not ever had an issue before, but anything's possible. In fact, when it was just the neck (for one day), I thought I'd just slept wrong or something, but when it moved down into the arm, that's when I thought it was probably the injection.
 
avatar
Rod Moser, PA, PhD replied to ddc45's response:
The neck is a very common spot to feel stress....the trapezius and sternocleidomastoid muscles can tighten up like a vise when you are stressed (or sleep wrong). As far as the nurse giving a shot in the wrong place, I can't really comment, but it is possible.
 
avatar
Paul04301972 responded:
First of all let me say, I am healthy as can be, played college sports, spent six years in the military, have been poked with injections many times and have never had any issues at all. I am having by far the worst pain in my life in my shoulder. This has been going on for over a month now and am finally going to see my doctor next week. All from the flu shot that was given to me way to high in my arm. I am extremely active and am irritated beyond belief over this. I play over 80 rounds of golf every year and can not swing a golf club at all. I have no idea what to do or what can be wrong. If this is not fixable I am going to be devistated. If this is a situation where a nerve was hit, will it truly be something that can heal itself? I can touch exactly where the injection was given and it is just raw and sore. I do have pain in my shoulder and neck but I am strictly associating that with the fact that I do not move my arm very much and therefore those muscles are just stiff and working differently. Putting my clothes on, moving anything with that arm, is all so painful. What a nightmare!
 
avatar
Rod Moser, PA, PhD replied to Paul04301972's response:
Yes, an injection...especially one given in the wrong area can cause nerve damage or impingement. Sometimes, there can be some bleeding at the injection site (deep in the tissue) that causes an inflammatory response, so this, too, can cause nerve irritation.

I am absolutely amazed by the number of people who are reporting injection-related problems this year. We give zillions of injections in our office and this rarely happens. Is it that the people giving the shots are poorly trained or inexperienced?
 
avatar
Paul04301972 replied to Rod Moser, PA, PhD's response:
I can tell you from my scenario that it was like an assembly line and all the nurses were chatting and not really paying attention to what they were doing. Blah, blah, blah, with multiple people getting shots at a time. My workplace has the local clinic come in and we have one afternoon to get them. After this experience I am going to highly recommend that this process stops.


Featuring Experts

Welcome to WebMD's Ear, Nose, and Throat Community — a site where members help each other. If you have an experience to share or would like ...More

Helpful Tips

FAQ Tip #2: Tonsilliths and Cryptic TonsilsExpert
People are often puzzled by white accumulations in their tonsils. Some feel they have Strep, yet they do not really have a red, sore ... More
Was this Helpful?
18 of 26 found this helpful

Expert Blog

Focus on Flu

Find answers to your questions about seasonal flu issues and answers to your concerns about the flu season and H1N1...Read More

Report Problems to the
Food and Drug Administration

FDAYou are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.