Mild, temporary shoulder pain and inflammation is expected and common after receiving a flu shot because it’s the body’s natural response to an unfamiliar invader. If the needle is properly administered, there should be minimal soreness in the area, typically lasting for one to two days. A tetanus shot, however, may cause a more issues, such as localized redness, swelling, pain and irritation that should heal within a week or less. In other cases of vaccine injections, if pain becomes severe, accompanied by inflammation other shoulder problems and persists for weeks or months, this may be a syndrome called Shoulder Injury Related To Vaccine Administration (SIRVA). SIRVA is associated with tetanus, flu, pneumococcal and other needle injections.
1. Cause of SIRVASIRVA is a syndrome caused by a needle injection being improperly administered too high and too deep into the shoulder. The vaccine itself has nothing to do with the syndrome. When a needle is deeply injected into the upper third of the deltoid muscle, the needle can puncture a small sac of lubricating fluid located beneath the deltoid muscle called bursa. Bursa protects the tendons in the shoulder by acting as a cushion. If punctured, the immune system may attack the bursa causing pain, inflammation and an injury known as Frozen Shoulder.
2. Symptoms of SIRVASymptoms of SIRVA are noticeable within the first 48 hours after a vaccination for most people. For others, symptoms have appeared as soon as 24 hours. SIRVA symptoms can affect a person’s ability to complete ordinary daily tasks, such as bathing and dressing. Typical symptoms include, chronic and severe shoulder pain, chronic inflammation, limited range of motion and weakness.
3. Injuries Caused By SIRVASymptoms of the syndrome can also be signs of an injury. SIRVA injuries are primarily associated with inflammation. Injuries caused by the syndrome include:
• Brachial Neuritis - inflammation and nerve damage of the brachial plexus (network of nerves) that causes pain, weakness and numbness in the shoulder and arm.
• Deltoid Bursitis - inflammation of the subdeltoid bursa that causes pain and limited mobility.
• Frozen Shoulder (adhesive capsulitis) - stiffness, pain and limited movement in the shoulder joint.
• Impingement Syndrome - shoulder pain caused by connective tissues rubbing the shoulder blade.
• Rotator Cuff Injury - pain, weakness in muscles, loss of muscles, stiffness and tenderness in the shoulder.
• Shoulder Bursitis - inflammation of the bursa surrounding the shoulder joint.
• Tendinitis - inflammation of a tendon.
4. Treatments for SIRVA Symptoms and InjuriesSymptoms of SIRVA can subside for some people after a week or two. However, if the pain and other symptoms persist, there is a possibility a person has a SIRVA-related injury. They should consult their primary care physician.
Oftentimes, a primary care physician will refer their patients to an orthopedic surgeon. The surgeon will probably perform an MRI to determine the diagnosis and begin treatment options.
For mild injury cases, an orthopedic surgeon may prescribe a medication for pain and suggest physical therapy a few times a week for a few months to see how well a patient responds to it. If there is no improvement, the next step may be a corticosteroid injection, which can eliminate inflammation and improve range of motion in the arm. A corticosteroid injection has worked for some patients, while others have only experienced temporary results.
In severe injury cases, physical therapy, medication and corticosteroid injection fail to provide complete relief. A patient may need surgery to repair tendons or remove the bursa.
5. Compensation Program for People with Vaccine InjuriesCases of vaccine injection injuries are common and the number of incidents continue to increase. In the 1980’s, Congress created a program to compensate victims of vaccine injuries called, Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP). The program is funded by an excise tax that is on all vaccines. Over $2 billion has been awarded to thousands of victims since 1989. Only people who have been diagnosed with SIRVA after being vaccinated is eligible for compensation.
6. Ways To Prevent SIRVAWherever vaccinations or any injections are available, there is the potential to walk away with SIRVA. Even in top-notch medical centers there have been reports of vaccine injuries. There are three precautions that can be taken that may help prevent SIRVA. First, ask questions. Ensure the healthcare professional who is administering the vaccination is specifically trained in giving needle injections. Second, always wear a shirt that can fully expose the arm, or take the shirt off. Third, never pull your shirt down to reveal the top of your shoulder because the needle should not be injected at the top of the shoulder.
Mark Sadaka from Vaccine Injury Help Center, the leading Vaccine Shoulder Injury Attorney, has a national practice and works with clients from New York to Alaska.