Arm Pain After COVID-19 Vaccine Is Common

arm swelling covid 19 vaccine

March 4 update: Allergy researchers at Mass General Hospital created a registry for healthcare professionals to report  immediate and delayed reactions to COVID-19 vaccinations. On March 3, the researchers published a letter in the New England Journal of Medicine describing a series of 12 delayed injection site reactions including swelling and rashes that they say require further investigation. The researchers wrote that one patient received antibiotics although they were not necessary. Several others were treated with steroids or anti inflammatories. The letter included some photos and said that the reactions cleared up within a median of six days. Patients were encouraged to receive their second dose. Half of them did not experience the reaction the second time. A quarter did, but to a lesser degree.

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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C arol
C arol
1 day ago

I had my first moderna vaccine on 4 /24 ,my arm was very sore for a couple of days,and then on the first of May it was sore and kept getting worse constant pain from the top of my shoulder to the top of my hand and was red and swollen ,I finally went to my GP on the 12 and she gave me a toradol shot and a steroid shot and oral steroid for 5 days , glad to say the pain is pretty well gone , it’s a little achy in the morning but a couple of tylenol… Read more »

Joni
Joni
1 day ago

It’s been 7 weeks since my second vaccine. The pain in my arm is getting worse by the day.

Barbara Savage
Barbara Savage
2 days ago

I have developed , after 10 days a stabbing chronic pain my my deltoid, injection site. I am 67 and have a few ache s and pains but this is a bit different, could it be a delayed reaction to the injection?

lisa
lisa
3 days ago

Hello,
Has anyone had an extremely delayed reaction to the vaccine? I received my 2nd Moderna dose on Feb 2nd and JUST NOW have been having extreme pain in and around the injection site. I have stabbing pain and unable to lift my arm. even leaning my arm on my desk to type is very painful. I also have a burning sensation up my arm into my neck.
I didn’t have any major side effects immediately after my vaccination

Lisa
Lisa
3 days ago

Hi All. I wanted to let the people who are experiencing extended arm/shoulder pain know that there is a Facebook page called: SIRVA- Shoulder Injury Related to Vaccine Administration. It’s a private page, and you need to answer a few questions before joining. SIRVA encompasses various shoulder injuries (resulting in tendinitis, bursitis, adhesive capsulitis, impingement syndrome, etc.), with pain being intermittent or constant, or a nerve related issue in the arm/hand. I didn’t initially think I was dealing with SIRVA but after more research and hearing about varying cases, now I know I am. There are sadly a good number… Read more »

Janice
Janice
4 days ago

I’ve been following this discussion forum since mid March after experiencing intense swelling and pain in my shoulder, upper arm and armpit on the side I received my second Pfizer dose on March 7. Everything I read or heard about the side effects before and after I got my shot were definitely not what my experience has been. On 3/7, I received my 2nd dose and within 12 hours I had a 103 degree fever that lasted 2 days. The day after my fever broke, the swelling and discomfort started in my armpit. As if my armpit discomfort wasn’t enough,… Read more »

Lisa
Lisa
7 days ago

Hi All. I’ve been replying to some people’s comments directly but haven’t posted here on the general discussion in about a month. I received my second Pfizer vaccine on February 19th and have been dealing with pain and achiness in my shoulder region, clavicle, underarm, upper back/shoulder blade area since. The pain moves around, only in those areas on my vaccinated side. I’ve been to my PCP, a rheumatologist, and 2 orthopedic surgeons. I had a cortisone shot a month ago in my shoulder joint, felt pretty much complete relief 3 weeks later, but I’m feeling something creep back the… Read more »

David Wallace
David Wallace
8 days ago

I haven’t posted for a month but the left arm pain from the first Astra Zeneca jab did go after 7 to 8 weeks. Here in the UK the second dose is administered 12 weeks after the first and 1 week after my second dose – in my right arm – things are following pretty much the same pattern as before.
I think it would be helpful to us all if the original article could be updated. By now there must be more information out there.

Brooke
Brooke
8 days ago

First scientific medical article about the Covid vaccine and Sirva just published. I have seen other articles about Sirva and other vaccines, but this is the first about The Covid vaccine.
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00256-021-03803-x

Rachel
Rachel
9 days ago

A month after my second jab I get extreme pain on shoulder adduction as well as lifting any weight through the same arm. I had no problems after my first shot other than that night I couldn’t lay on that arm but this resolved in less than 24 hours. My second shot however am am having persistent severe pain on adduction . I wonder if its less to do with the vaccine and more to do with the technique and placement of the shot .

Connie
Connie
9 days ago

I got my 2nd Moderna shot on Feb 9 and here we are May 6 and I still have shoulder , arm, tendon and muscle pain. I also have to lay my right arm a certain way to sleep at night and sometimes have to help lift up my right arm with my left hand. I haven’t been to the doctor as I thought it all had to do with my tendonitis acting up as I am working in front of a computer all day. But now that I have read comments below, I now know it is from the… Read more »

Jon Faxon "Fax" Hall
Jon Faxon "Fax" Hall
10 days ago
Brooke
Brooke
11 days ago

Well it’s been awhile since I updated. My Moderna shot was feb 24. Experienced extreme pain and extreme weakness in my left shoulder and scapular shoulder region. I finally had an intraarticlar injection April 19, in the shoulder joint. After around 3 days I felt 75% better. I was in heaven. I started physical therapy 10 days later and now I am worse than before the injection. I am so depressed. I really can’t live like this.

Tami Ojeda
Tami Ojeda
12 days ago

Had Pfizer shot January 16. It is now May 4. My left arm remains sore with shooting pains down to my hand. It has also radiated up to my shoulder, upper back, and neck. It is miserable and interferes with work and sleep. I ibuprofen doesn’t touch it. Hope they figure this out soon!

CloLo
CloLo
12 days ago

I received the J&J vaccine March 10, ’21 and have experienced pain in the injection arm, my left arm, since then. This is horrible. I’ll need to go to a doctor sometime, because this chronic arm pain is limiting function of my arm. Any movement of my left arm causes pain. This is what can happen when you become a “Guinea Pig.”

Steve
Steve
12 days ago

Had 1st Pfizer Feb 11. Still have upper arm/shoulder pain both sides every day. Occasional hamstring pain both sides. Had many more areas involved, but the rest have mostly resolved. Have reported to Pfizer. Left messages w/ primary twice. Understand this is all new, but would like to know actual cause of pain to try to understand. NOT looking forward to booster at this point.

Rodrigo G
Rodrigo G
13 days ago

Same here 1st moderna dose, arm discomfort showed after 10 days approximately, today is my second those and my arm still hurts, cant raise it past 80 degrees. how long it has lasted for you? did you needed medication?

Diane Mineo
Diane Mineo
15 days ago

My first shot Pfizer was at the end of January. The Muscle still hurts after 4 months. I have to sleep with my arm hanging down off the bed, and its also hard to put my left arm behind my back. I have used a heating pad on it and have taken Naproxen nothing has worked.

karen A panetta
karen A panetta
15 days ago

had my J&J shot april 9th yesterday and today I cant move my arm past my middle of my side very sore like i got hit with a bat? is this common what should I do

Rebecca
Rebecca
16 days ago

I received the J & J vaccine on April 5th with some slight soreness at the injection site. Two weeks later I felt a stinging pain and now near the injection site is very tender and the skin is numb. It almost feels like there’s still a needle in my arm at times. Every so often I feel that same stinging pain as well.

Betty
Betty
17 days ago

I had my first Pfizer vaccine on February 22 with no problems. After my second vaccine on March 17, I had arm pain which became worse over time to the point that my arm aches 24/7 and the pain wakes me up at night, even though I was taking two 650 mg tablets of Acetaminophen twice a day. It has been 42 days/nights of suffering, I finally went in to see the doctor, diagnosis “Covid Vaccine Arm” I was given prescriptions for Prednisone and Meloxicam. I feel that the vaccine definitely exacerbated my rheumatoid arthritis. I look forward to a… Read more »

Yvonne
Yvonne
17 days ago

Second Moderna shot a week ago. First shot had arm neck pain. Second shot pain went away but came back day 7 worse than evr. I can barely turn my head. Arm neck and shoulder pain going down to my hands. Muscle (Sore to touch) and nerve pain. I am on immunosuppressing drugs which I was told stop and to start back after a week. As soon as I did the pain started back. No Dr knows what to do. Take my drugs as usual or not.

Arlene
Arlene
17 days ago

I had the AstraZeneca shot on Sat April 24/2021, arm was a bit sore that day but only at the exact site of injection.. After a day of chills and aches, it was getting better but 4 days after the shot, my arm and shoulder started to ache more and it hurt to sleep on it. It is also a bit bloated, and warm to the touch.. I am glad to read that I am not alone and that it is maybe just par for the course…

Ev Foy
Ev Foy
18 days ago

Had 1st phizer on april 15, little sore and then a red rash near site for 2 days, about 2 in diameter. went away. All good until day 11, yesterday, rash back and a little redder and worse, arm getting sore..worse than before. Guess this is the delayed thing i’ve heard about. Anyone with delayed reaction, my Dr hasn’t seen it yet in other patients, made me a bit nervous to hear that.

Sharri Moore
Sharri Moore
20 days ago

I had no pain after ,my first Moderna shot but the day after I got it I had a black and blue bruise at the injection site. It didn’t hurt but it took two weeks to heal. After the stuff I am reading about the blood disorder causing bruising I am a bit leery of getting the 2nd shot. I know of no one who had a bruise. Can anyone speak to this? I wasn’t getting any firm reassurance from my doc’s office.

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