Arm Pain After COVID-19 Vaccine Is Common

arm swelling covid 19 vaccine

MedShadow was the first to launch its COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effect Tracker, even before any COVID-19 vaccines were authorized by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). Its goal is to report on the adverse effects in clinical trials, help our readers make informed decisions and know what to expect when they get their shots. Experts said early-on that some of the side effects may be severe enough that you should try to plan to stay home from work after receiving the vaccine. One of the most frequent adverse effects the companies reported in Phase III trials (91.6% of Moderna patients and 84.1% of Pfizer patients) were “injection site reactions,” arm pain after the COVID vaccine along with swelling, redness and other symptoms near the jab.

“The most common symptom patients are getting from these injections is pain. That’s about 70% of the time,” says Peter Gulick, MD, an associate professor of medicine at Michigan State University. He adds that his own arm was sore after he received the first shot of the Pfizer vaccine, but not after the second.

Now, as more and more people are getting their shots, we’re hearing details and personal stories, and a trend is emerging. Our vaccine side effect tracker has amassed more than 100 comments, many of which describe varying degrees of arm pain after the COVID-19 vaccine, along with redness, itching and swelling at the injection site. These reactions, isolated to the arms that received the shots, have worried people.

On Jan. 10, Michelle wrote in our tracker, “Please help. I received the Moderna vaccine on Dec. 30 (healthcare professional). Today is Jan. 9. I have a baseball-size rash, hot to touch, not painful, that started last Tuesday (six days after injection). At first, my arm was a bit sore, but nothing more than [like after] the flu vaccine. I have drawn a circle around the mark to see if it is increasing in size; it has been increasing each day. I went to [the doctor] dr and they told me they don’t know what is causing this, but [they] put me on an antibiotic. I am scheduled for a second vaccine on Jan. 25. Not sure if I should still get this.”

Others quickly shared  similar experiences. According to an article in USA Today, “COVID arms,” or symptoms of injection site reactions, seem to be especially common among those who have received the Moderna vaccine, a trend also demonstrated among our commenters.

Three doctors who have received the vaccines and are administering doses to others told MedShadow that pain, swelling and other reactions to the vaccine in the arm are nothing to worry about. They’ve been able to safely give patients with these reactions both doses of the two-shot vaccines. However, in rare occasions, these reactions may be the result of an infection that requires antibiotics.

What Injection Site Reactions Are and Why They Happen

Scientists divide adverse reactions into two categories: local and systemic. Injection site reactions include any change — swelling, redness, pain, itchiness and even swollen lymph nodes in the armpit or collarbone — to the shot that is isolated to one area of your body near the jab. Alternatively, headaches, fatigue, fever, muscle pain and chills are systemic reactions. 

Even when you get sick with the flu, symptoms like fever, cough and runny nose are not caused by the virus itself, but by your immune system’s attempt to dispel the virus from your body. Despite that fact that the COVID-19 vaccine cannot actually infect you with the virus, it does cause your body to mount an immune response — that’s the point — so many of these side effects are normal and suggest that the vaccine is doing its job.

You don’t usually get arm pain in response to a respiratory infection, but most of the time, these injection site reactions too “are our body’s immune reaction to the vaccine itself. The vaccine triggers an inflammatory response. That’s what it’s supposed to do,” says Kartik Cherabuddi, MD, an infectious disease expert at the University of Florida. “And in some people, it can manifest itself in this way,” as arm pain after the COVID-19 vaccine. 

In a small number of cases, the symptoms may be a sign that the act of breaking the skin to administer the vaccine has introduced a bacterial infection.

A Delayed Response

Most injection site reactions occur within the first hour or day after receiving the vaccination. However, Cherabuddi adds that he and his team have been seeing “another phase that’s starting about five to 10 days later.” This delayed-reaction phenomenon is also echoed by commenters on our vaccine tracker, as recorded by BT, below

On Jan. 16, BT wrote, “I had [the] Moderna vaccine eight days ago with no issue until this morning. When I woke up with an extremely swollen injection site that is red, warm and very hard, and it was initially itching, now just aching. Would appreciate knowing when your swelling went down and if you noticed any other side effects.”

Whether your reaction developed within a day or was delayed up to 10  days, Cherabuddi says, “We’re seeing these reactions resolved in a couple of days.” 

While the injection site is painful, he, Gulick and Clarence Lam, MD, MPH, an interim director for occupational health at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and a Maryland state senator, all suggest that over-the-counter painkillers like ibuprofen and Tylenol are safe and may help. You can also get some relief by applying a warm compress to the site.

If the reaction at the injection site lasts more than a few days with no sign of improvement, it’s time to contact a healthcare provider. She or he may prescribe steroids to reduce the swelling. However, these drugs also dampen your immune response, and thus may limit the vaccine’s efficacy. “[Steroids] could help if the response is particularly strong, but it’s probably not necessary in almost all instances,” says Lam.

If your provider believes you have a bacterial infection, he or she may prescribe antibiotics or drain fluid from the swollen area. Cherabuddi emphasizes that one sign you have a bacterial infection is that the reaction expands over several days. “An untreated infection will [continuously] get worse,” he says. “If it just stays the same for the next 24 to 48 hours, then you don’t need an antibiotic.”

Should I Still Get my Second Shot?

If you’ve experienced systemic adverse effects, like welts, hives, lip and throat or blood pressure changes, that might suggest an allergy. Cherabuddi says then it’s best to speak with an allergist before getting your second dose. If you’ve noticed an injection site reaction or flulike symptoms that cleared up, the physicians recommend getting the second dose. “We still want people to get the second dose, because [the vaccines] have been shown to be far more effective with dose two,” adds Lam.

Gulick, who has received payments for consulting with pharma companies on HIV and hepatitis C drugs, suggests that if you’ve experienced “a lot of pain and swelling after the first shot,” plan ahead to take an over-the-counter painkiller like aspirin immediately after receiving the second shot.

If the local reaction is still present come time for your second dose, you can postpone it. Cherabuddi says that in a few patients who were still recovering from arm pain after the COVID-19 vaccine’s first shot, he recommends waiting a little bit longer than the prescribed 21 or 28 days between doses, “just to let this [area] settle down, let the redness, achiness and swelling subside.” But, he adds, that in all the cases of injection site reactions he’s seen so far, patients have been able to safely get the second dose.

“In almost all instances, [these temporary side effects are] part of the body’s normal immune response. And while it may be concerning on the face of it, I think the reassurance is there that for individuals that have had this response, it shows that the vaccine is working,” says Lam. “Your body’s actually doing the work it’s supposed to do.”

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41 thoughts on “Arm Pain After COVID-19 Vaccine Is Common

  1. Article was extremely helpful. I have two 83 year olds in my household who will get the Moderna shot on Monday, Feb 8 so this is timely, informative and very helpful.

  2. Yes it was. Just need non political information so can make a good decision on taking shots. We are in our 70’s and good health but have horror stories about shots so trusting this site for good info.

  3. After dose 1 of vaccination (Moderna), felt fine most of the day, then very tired the next night and woke feeling not well – not terrible, but a little nauseous, a little achy, worn out. Better by the next day. 8 days later, in the evening, the injection site was hot and raised. My arm shows bruising next to that. 2 more days later, the inflammation at the injection site comes and goes, as does the itching. Bruising is healing. Witch hazel and a topical calendula gel have helped soothe the relatively minor discomfort. This article was helpful in normalizing these symptoms and clarifying that they don’t contraindicate scheduling my second dose.

  4. I experienced the “baseball” arm on day 9 after my first Moderns vaccine shot. I was alarmed because most information available including Moderna’s said most issues resolved within 7 days of receiving the shot. The redness did spread through day 10 and slowly subsided. Then, 3 days after receiving my 2nd shot, I woke up with hives and itching down the side of my neck and my arm to the elbow ( somewhat like a strip) on the front side of the injection site. It’s 2a.m. So I’m Googling. I immediately took 1 low dosage benedryl tablet and applied “Ivarest” (similar to calamine lotion) to the hives. After an hour, the hives and itching seem to have calmed down. I will post an update if this does not resolve itself within a day or if it worsens.

  5. “I’ve never had a reaction to a vaccine like that,”
    The second dose of the different than first dose 🙁 after 5 hours of my all body hurting ,fever 102 ,shaking chills, severe headache, nausea, ringing in my ears and a sore arm after getting booster dose of the Moderna vaccine.

  6. Itching developed at the injection site on day 8 after my February 2 Moderna 1st vaccine. Itching continues today with red patch approximately 3 inches long and 1.5 inches wide. Also, on three different occasions since the vaccination, I have experienced a kind of “giddiness” in my chest/breathing. It lasts 20 or 30 seconds and then passes. Not sure that it is related to the shot, but I have never before experienced this sensation.

  7. Please repost your day 9, 10, 11 etc symptoms. I’m at day 8 of Moderna #1 and same, itching, skin very warm to touch, very slightly swollen shoulder at site.

  8. Received 1st dose Moderna on Feb 2nd. I mentioned to my wife in the 15 min observation area there was a pain in the elbow of the arm that got the shot (left arm). It’s bothered me some off and on with elbow pain, but I can treat it with Methyl Salicylate and/or ThermaWorx joint relief foam. Today, the pain was there in the morning, and I applied ThermaWorx. Felt good til supper time. I had to move things into the garage for our upcoming winter storm (Houston) and now my arm is practically disabled (ALL elbow pain – just in the arm receiving the shot 10 days ago. I applied methyl Salicylate and it’s starting to feel a bit better, but still not really useable for even picking up a 15 oz package of pretzels. I’m going to wrap it with an elastic support and hope it gets better tomorrow. There is a slight shoulder pain now also, but it’s just on the edge of being noticeable. No hives, no redness, no swelling … just elbow pain. I thought it might be my rovustatin (cholesterol) giving me joint pain, but then I looked up MODERNA ELBOW PAIN and read this page just a few minutes ago.

  9. I had my first moderna shot 2/2 after 5 min I could taste the vaccine then it went away. Arm hurt a day or two – on 2/10 my arm swelled where I got shot and was very red. I took benadryl and applied ice . Was better next day but still there, red and ached. today 2/13 redness moved around arm still achy . Not sure if this is normal but after reading comments seems so. Concerned about second shot.

  10. I received second dose of vaccine today. I can taste the chemicals.
    My blood pressure dropped very low, have very swollen arm, neck pain and
    stiffness: fatigue.
    I felt wonderful before the vaccine.
    There was no reaction to the first application of the
    vaccine. Autumn

    1. I had my first Moderna vaccine on January 13 and my second dose on February 10 I didn’t really have any issues after the first dose but after the second I woke up the following day with a lump in my armpit about the size of half of a baseball. It was swollen lymph nodes. Today is February 20th and both of my arms are aching from the elbow to the armpit and have been about three days. The muscles just feel so tight and tired. Is anyone else experiencing this?

      1. I had my first shot of the Moderna 2/13. The injection site hurts a little when I press on it. My arm is very achy at the injection site and it’s been 10 days.

  11. Minor pain after the shot which hurt more (not that bad) but before night it hurt a LOT. It wasn’t a constant pain but when I lifted my arm which had the shot the pain was excruciating. I could move the arm involved from the elbow down, up and down and back and forth with no pain at all, but lifting from the shoulder caused great pain and involuntary shaking. I took 2 Advil and the pain started to recede and within a day was gone. I am certainly glad it went away. I am going to ask for the second shot on the opposite arm, just in case.

  12. My mother received her 1st Moderna vaccine on Thursday, February 11th. Her reactions have been very very painful. She has not been able to move or lift up her arm, she has a fever of 100, today she vomited quite hard and has very severe back pain. I would appreciate anyone’s advice to help her recover from the vaccine side effects.

    1. I am experiencing exact same symptoms. It’s been 3 1/2 weeks now, arm pain seems to be subsiding. Arm pain started at two weeks, peaked at three weeks. Hopefully continues to subside.

    2. I had the research pfizer shot in October of last year. I had my second shot. I had pain every since the first shot . My shoulder and arm hurt bad. Going to get mri next week of shoulder .

    3. I’ve also had a painful arm after my first shot for a month. I just had my 2nd shot a week ago and my arm is very sore. If I try stretch my arm back, it really aches.

  13. I had the Moderna shot Feb. 15th..Injection site arm pain like someone punched me..and am a little tired..No rednessness or swelling..yet..I did take advil right after the injection..I will take tylenol today as well..

  14. I had the Moderna shot Feb. 15th..Injection site arm pain like someone punched me..and am a little tired..No rednessness or swelling..yet..I did take advil right after the injection..I will take tylenol today as well.. at 78 yrs old I was very anxidty ridden about taking the shot, because I had a bad reaction to the flu shot..So I wound up not taking the flu shot for at least 10 years..Never got the flue again..

  15. I received the Moderna vaccine on 2/9 and everything was ok until yesterday, 2/16. The injection site began feeling hard and today, 2/17 it is more swollen and itchy with some minor discomfort due to the swelling. I’ve applied ice to it for a bit to cool the site off a bit. Now that I’ve read that this is not uncommon I’ll just try some advil. Second shot is due in 3 weeks.

  16. I received my 1st Moderna shot on 2/8. I didn’t feel any pain until 2/9. I developed a small lump under the skin, but nothing major. On 2/17, the area began to itch. I know have a large, raised, warm area at the injection site that itches. Today it doesn’t itch as much and the swelling is going away. This forum helped me understand the delayed side effect and encouragement to get the 2nd shot. I am using the same arm. I need the good arm to stay good!!! (lol)

  17. 5 weeks on and I still have a very painful injection site. I have recognised most of the symptoms already mentioned here. I had the 1st dose of the Oxford Astrica Zeneca vaccine and wonder what ingredients might be common to the Moderna product?

  18. I got my 1st Moderna shot on 2/17 and a few min later I had a weird taste in my mouth, but then it went away. The injection site was sore but not bad. Went to sleep and woke up to both arms aching. Today is 2/19 both arms are still achy above the elbow.

  19. I feel relieved after reading comments about arm/shoulder pain. I (54 y/o) received my Moderna vaccination on 2/15 and felt no arm pain until the next morning. 5 days later arm, shoulder, still very painful, sore, but no obvious redness or swelling. Simply difficult to lift or move arm into a comfortable position even with use of Tylenol and/or Aleve. Hoping to feel relief soon and wishing you all the same

    1. I am on day 16 after 1st Moderna vaccine. Very painful muscle ache from elbow to shoulder.
      Feel better after reading all the comments although seems a bit long to have symptoms.

      1. I had first Moderna vaccine and it was very painful, then swelled and was red with itching for many days. After second vaccine had much smaller amount of pain, slight swelling that went away in a few days. First vaccine felt a little fatigue. Second, had fever, chills, tired and little nauseous that last about 36 hours total. Good luck

    2. Had my 1st Pfizer vaccine without any complication had my 2nd on 2/10 8 days after I woke up with an unbearable pain arm, shoulder, elbow, no swelling or redness. Tylenol , Motrin or Aleve with minimal relief. Difficult to raise arm hope to feel well soon.

  20. Day 5 after 1st Moderna shot I had developed a dull, sore-to-the touch area above the vaccine site – near the back of my underarm. Still there 8 days later. I’ve been itchy on hands but not sure what that is as I suffer from contact dermatitis.

  21. I had my first vaccine January 8 and felt a ache start across my upper arm starting from the area of the shot. Later that day my arm was sore like I had played pass it on. That soreness is still there and I get some showing pain gong across and down my arm because of it I had my second vaccine Feb 5 in the same arm . I did not want both arms feeling like this 😫

  22. I appear to be one of the unfortunate few who are allergic to the Moderna vaccine. One day after my vaccine I noticed a rash on my torso, back and neck. I took photos then took Benadryl and Allegra. It helped a bit. I had a telemedicine appointment today and after seeing my photos said I was having a non severe allergic reaction to the vaccine. He prescribed steroids. I am only 4 days out from my vaccine and would like to know when this rash will subside. My airways are not affected. I am allergic to penicillin and quite a lot of antibiotics which makes me difficult to treat, I’ve never had a reaction to a vaccine and always get a flu shot. I’m VERY disappointed in my body’s reaction and am not sure it would be prudent to get the second shot. I hope this helps someone.

  23. Received my second Moderna vaccine on 2/18. By that evening, my arm started to hurt. Had a terrible night. By the next day, I had difficulty using my arm. I could not lift it without assistance from my other hand. I cannot lift my arm higher than my forehead and I can’t stretch it out in front of me or shoulder height to the side. It has been 55 hours since I received the shot, and I am a little worried.

  24. first Moderna shot had a rough night aches and pains. Cleared up day later. 2nd shot worse pain ever in my shoulder, could not sleep for 2 days. Extremely weak can hardly raise arm without using other arm to help. Hopefully it will come back to normal in a few more days. Taking Tylenol to ease pain.

  25. Got first shot on Jan. 27. Arm pain for a couple days that went away. Then a few days later, it came back. I cannot sleep on my left side nor lift my arm higher than horizontal without pain. I am 71, live alone, and need both my arms to function. Very concerned about getting the 2nd shot in 2 days. I also only weigh 90# and they are unable to provide the ideal 5/8″ needle ideal for someone of my size.

  26. I’m 9 days post 2nd shot of Pfizer and my arm is slightly swollen (my wedding ring is tight) and my arm feels like it’s coming off being asleep all the time. I was worried it was a sign of a heart attack until I saw this thread. Hopefully it’s just a lingering minor reaction. I also had a small rash on my torso that appeared a few days ago, so that must be as well. I honestly didn’t expect there to be lingering issues after the first few days.

  27. I had the Oxford jab on the 18th of January and my arm still hurts is this right as it’s been over a month

    1. Same deal: arm still hurts 3.5 wks after first Moderna jab. Not pain, per se, just ongoing soreness. Am scheduled for 2nd jab in 4 days.

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