Skip to content


    Attention All WebMD Community Members:

    These message boards are closed to posting. Please head on over to our new WebMD Message Boards to check out and participate in the great conversations taking place:

    Your new WebMD Message Boards are now open!

    Making the move is as easy as 1-2-3.

    1. Head over to this page:

    2.Choose the tag from the drop-down menu that clicks most with you (and add it to any posts you create so others can easily find and sort through posts)

    3.Start posting

    Have questions? Email us anytime at

    Includes Expert Content
    Extremely stiff neck from flu shot (or maybe tetanus shot)
    amyarizona posted:
    I am normally in excellent health. Last week I received a flu shot in one arm and a tetanus shot in the other. At the time I was taking a 5 day dose of Bactrim for a skin infection.
    2 nights after receiving the shots my neck froze up. By the following morning I had NO mobility in my neck at all and had a lot of neck pain. Could not move 5 degrees to either side.
    I see an occasional posting about stiff neck as a side effect of flu shots but this was very extreme. I tried cold but mostly moist heat. The next day I went to an urgent care (It was Sunday and could not find a real doctor). They told me to go to the emergency room and thought I might need a CAT scan. I was scared. I went to the emerency room and they said it was a muscle spasm caused by the fllu shot and gave me a muscle relaxant (valium), a pain pill, and iboprofen. This combo upset my stomach. So I then had extreme neck pain, little mobility, and terrible stomach pain.
    Three days later the mobility is slowly returning. I now have about 30 degrees in each direction. Hoping to regain all 90 degrees, of course.
    1. I want to know if I should avoid flu shots and tetanus shots in the future. I have received a flu shot every year for 30 years.
    2. I want to know if other people have as extreme reaction as I did to either shot. I can't find anything on the internet to reassure me. I don't even know what caused this. Do you?
    Rod Moser, PA, PhD responded:
    You went to the ER and were examined. What do you mean "not a real doctor"? It sounds like you were properly diagnosed and treated.

    I do not believe that this is any type of reaction - a stiff and painful neck -- from the flu vaccine or tetanus, and see no reason why you could not get an annual flu vaccine next year, like you did for the last thirty. You can always get the Flu Mist if you meet the age and medical history criteria (no needle).

    I have no way of blindly determining the exact reason for your neck pain over the Internet, but I would not see this as related to the vaccines.
    amyarizona replied to Rod Moser, PA, PhD's response:
    It is now two weeks since I received these two vacinations. Ihave regained on one side and about 1/2 on the other. I have been to the emergency room (see above) and the chiripractor twice.
    I notice on another post you said vacines are safe but "I do think some people giving the injections need a refresher course of proper technique."
    So my question is: DO you think the cause of my problem might have been receiving two vaccines on the same day OR some problem with the way it was given (like poor technique).

    amyarizona responded:
    "not a real doctor" means a technician. Possibly not even a nurse.
    Rod Moser, PA, PhD replied to amyarizona's response:
    Thanks for the clarification. Are you okay now?
    amyarizona replied to Rod Moser, PA, PhD's response:
    Okay but not back to normal. I have had 4 adjustments from various bodyworkers like chiropractors and massage therapists to try to regain full mobility and reduce the stiffness. Each helps a little but still not pain free.

    Anyway, where you iput could help is you thoughts as to:
    1. whether at 64 in excellent helath (but without a spleen) I should get further flu shots.
    3. Whether you think geting both a flu and teatnus shot simultaneously might have triggered this response
    4. Whether you think poor technician technique could have caused this response
    5. whether I am out of line wanting the drugstore clinic where I got the shots to pay for the emergency room and chirporactor (I have no insurance coverage.
    Rod Moser, PA, PhD replied to amyarizona's response:
    1. According to the most medical authorities, a person of your age, and without a spleen....should receive the annual flu vaccine. I do not know the detail of your medical history to determine if you have any other medical contraindications.

    3. No. Those two vaccines are often given at the same time. (there was no number 2)

    4. Improper technique may be a contributory cause, but I do not know any of the details of the administration method.

    5. You would need to address this issue with an attorney.
    johnnywong responded:
    I have the 80 % same situation with you.
    I took a flu shot in right arm and a tetanus shot in left arm. I believe is the tetanus shot, because I only have left side of stiff neck problem. It happened 1 days after the shot, first day little stiff, 2nd day worse, 3 rd day worse and worse.... I'm going to see doctor today again...
    amyarizona replied to johnnywong's response:
    Here is a followup for my situation.
    After two months the stiffness in my neck went away completely. But it did take that long. I am now 100% normal. Not sure what to do about future shots as I have no spleen and worry about flu. I reduce my social interaction in the winters a lot as it it.. But I digress.
    I got these shots at a clinic in the drugstore run by a big corporation. They kept in contact with me. I kept in contact with them. My bills, including a trip to the emergency room, and the cost of the shots, a massage or two, a chiropractor or two, and I forget what else, came to over $1000. The corporation paid all my bills.
    The good news is: the pain and stiffness is not permanent.
    Chimilagro replied to amyarizona's response:
    it's a relief to know that you got better, bc i was starting to get scared about my own similar situation after just a day. yesterday i had to go in for some booster shots in order to take a job working around kids. i immediately felt the ache of the tetanus shot, although based on the papers they gave me i may have received a triple shot for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis and no one bothered to explain that part. anyway, i immediately felt achy in my arm and neck. so i asked the shot-giver if i was supposed to feel pain in my neck as well. she said no. i told her it was hurting. she said i could take tylenol. the pain in my neck was worse last night and hurts more today. i also got a bad headache and super drowsy. i did not take the tylenol bc it was more of any achiness than a shooting pain that i thought i could ride out. i received the tetanus shot in my left arm and a TB test shot in my right on the same visit yesterday. i feel miserable. i never get a flu shot and i don't believe i have ever had the flu in the last decade. i, too, have excellent health, my medical record is extremely... boring. i have good numbers acros teh board on ekg, cholestrol, bp, etc. i am rarely this sleepy.
    Rod Moser, PA, PhD replied to Chimilagro's response:
    If you are still having issues today, it would be advisable for you to see your medical provider so that you can be examined first-hand. Certainly, a sore arm is possible from a tetanus or Adacel (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis), but not likely a sore neck (unless you are having "referred pain").

    Get it checked out...
    amyarizona replied to Chimilagro's response:
    I notice that everyone who has had trouble of this kind on this forum received TWO shots at the same time. The literature (and Dr. Moser's responses) seem to suggest that these were not a normal reactions to either one of these shots.
    I am not in the medical profession so I hesitate to diagnose but I think some research is necessary in the advisability of administering two shots of ANYTHING at the same time.

    In the meantime flu season is approaching and I am about to start my first winter season in 30 years without a flu shot as a result of two month long problem last year. I already give up a lot of my social activities in January and February to avoid contact with people and am not sure what else I can do for the rest of my life to live a normal life during flu season.

    Anyway, good luck to you. Dr. Moser suggests (below) seeing a doctor and that is what I would do too. And if it is any comfort to you know that eventually my neck returned to normal and yours will too.
    Rod Moser, PA, PhD replied to amyarizona's response:
    There has been plenty of research on giving two shots at the same time.....up to five or six in fact. It is very safe to do this.

    The military does it. It is not uncommon in pediatrics to give five or six different vaccines at the same time. I have never witnessed a problem because of this, nor has there been any serious adverse reactions for multiple vaccine administrations gven at the same time.

    Limiting the number of actual needle sticks is important, especially if you are the person receiving them.
    kellybm responded:
    Last week, I received a flu shot in my right arm and a Tetanus/Whooping Cough (TDAP) shot in my left. The next day I had flu like symptoms. These lasted for two days. Now I have a severe headache and a stiff neck. A couple of my coworkers also had flulike symptoms after the shot. We must have got a bad strain. I am done getting flu shots. I have been sick now for 5 days and I rarely am ever sick. I'll take my chances in the future. I am certain that those shots caused my symptoms.
    amyarizona replied to Rod Moser, PA, PhD's response:
    I notice that all these problems on this forum are caused by a combination of Tetanus and flu. While there may be other vaccines that do not cause bad side effects when given together I think we see here on this forum that the combination of recent flu vaccines (I think they change each year?) and tetanus CAN cause adverse reactions in a percentage of the population. Surely all the stiff necks here can't be a coincidence, can it, Dr. Moser?

    All medicines come with a list of POSSIBLE side effects so the consumer can make their own decisions. But I was not given a similar list when I got my vaccinations. I think the FDA should provide written information for prospective patients before they take these two shots together. I think you, Dr. Moser, are in a good position to contact them and share my suggestion. Thanks.

    Helpful Tips

    Your Home Black BagExpert
    Doctors used to carry black bags containing all the medical tools they would need for a home visit. Of course, that rarely happens anymore. ... More
    Was this Helpful?
    32 of 54 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 With Your Medications to the FDA

    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.