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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Margaret McC
Margaret McC
21 days ago

I received my first Moderna injection on 3/30/21, I had immediate pain and lots of bleeding at the injection site. Now, it January6, 2022 and I still have localized pain at the injection site. My left arm throbs and my range of motion is limited.

Last edited 21 days ago by Margaret McC
Taylor
Taylor
1 month ago

Has anyone who had these issues with the 1sr/2nd gotten the booster?

Jackie
Jackie
2 months ago

Hi I had my first Pfizer covid jab 6th April & 7months later am still getting a dull pain we’re I had my jab is this normal to still have a dull ache in my arm I haven’t had my second one cos I don’t want to feel the same ache! Is this normal & will I have this for ever

Lin
Lin
3 months ago

IS THIS FOREVER . Had a first Astrazeneca jab (UK) 9 months ago in February. I did post a comment 6 months ago, l am now lost in a mass of comments , at the time I thought I was on my own and I wasn’t. So pleased to have found this site. I feel bad for the people who have had much worse problems than mine. For 3 months my arm ached, felt very heavy and sent pains shooting from my shoulder to elbow, it was the feeling of ‘I had my injection a couple of days ago’ .… Read more »

Pam
Pam
3 months ago

I received my first Moderna shot in the left arm in late March. Had a mild rash and itching at injection site the first day. It seemed to calm down, but on day eight the rash became inflamed, raised and about 5 inches across. My arm ached from shoulder to elbow. When I went for the second shot in late April it was getting better, but was still visible and painful. I showed the nurse the injection site and she seemed unconcerned. I got the second shot in my right arm. I had a fever and fatigue for a couple… Read more »

Chey
Chey
4 months ago

Has anyone gotten the shot in their right arm, felt sore in that arm, but moved to the left arm then? It’s been two weeks since I gotten the second dose of Pfizer, and this whole past week, my left arm has been feeling sore and fatigued. It also seems to tingle and lose feelings some of the time. Why is the soreness in my opposite arm than where I got the shot administered?

jim
jim
5 months ago

-Received my 2nd Moderna shot in Feb. A week later developed a very sore arm/shoulder. By end of April soreness was very intermittent. Three weeks ago in July had an episode where I could hardly move my arm. I am now thinking it is bursitis or stable angina. Last few months I only have an episode when I am in an air conditioned casino and have been on my feet for quite a few hours. However, no chest pain or trouble breathing. I have a physical exam in two days and will query the doc. I can deal with bursitis,… Read more »

caroline
caroline
5 months ago

I experienced pain in my upper arm when lifting or pushing it back approx one week after my first Astra Jab in March didn’t relate it to the jab until I had my Second dose in my other arm and then experienced the same symptoms. Initial sharp shooting pain which is severe enough to make me feel sick followed by a dull ache for 20 secs . Im fit and exercise regularly, never had any problems with joints or muscles before. Im hoping this isnt permanent because it hindering my daily life and my sleep.

Jacquelyn
Jacquelyn
6 months ago

I’m back again with another update. (I posted a few weeks ago that I had J&J in late March, noticed mild soreness to touch at the injection site early in late June. Some arnica gel applied to the sore part took it all away within a few days.) Now, just a few days ago, I noticed a mysterious soreness on the other, opposite arm. A little higher up on the arm, closer to the shoulder. I have no idea what it could be, but it was eerily similar to the soreness on the injection site. A few days of arnica… Read more »

Last edited 6 months ago by Jacquelyn
Laura
Laura
6 months ago

I have had very similar issues. I had my first Moderna jab in May, straight away my arm was swollen and extremely sore for around a week. It was then fine, and all of a sudden this past week (July) it has started to become swollen again and is aching me, I am also getting pains down my arm into my fingers that come and go. I spoke with a doctor who immediately said it couldn’t be related to the vaccine as it was so long after getting it but I completely disagree – the swelling is in exactly the… Read more »

Apple
Apple
6 months ago

I got my first Pfizer COVID shot on my right arm in late May. I had soreness at the injection site . About 14 days later , I started to have swollen rash arround the injection site. Did anyone have a delayed skin reaction ( covid arm ) 2 weeks later ? Most delayed covid arm is about 1 week later. I never heard anyone else had a delayed skin reaction 2 weeks later . My red hot covid arm fade very slowly. I am going to delay my second shot until the rash fade completely. My injection site area… Read more »

Ally
Ally
6 months ago

First Moderna shot was fine, no side effects but I got my second shot of the Moderna vaccine in April and went through a few rough days of filling ill. It’s now July and I’m still feeling pain at the injection spot.

Jakew
Jakew
6 months ago

The nurse told me to keep swinging it, apparently it helps circulate muscle reflex. The pain or sting should die down after four days to a week, if you still have pain or swelling after that call in the medics stat. Don’t go crazy on pain killers, and don’t sleep on your arm.

Jacquelyn
Jacquelyn
6 months ago

I got the Johnson & Johnson COVID shot in late March. I had soreness at the injection site for a few days. Then it seemed to fade. Just today (late June) I noticed the same part of my arm is sore and I can’t think of any other explanation for it. It’s no big deal (I only notice it if I poke that part of my arm) but I was wondering what was going on. It’s not super painful, there is no bruise or discoloration, it’s just sore to the touch. I can move my arm around fine. Maybe it’s… Read more »

nick
nick
7 months ago

I’ve been following this thread for a while. I got my first moderna march 1. No side effects with either shot other than soreness, however I did have a deep, dull almost constant pain once the sharp pain went away. I do work out using weights, it does get better when I take breaks of a week. I was beginning to think it would never stop but it seems to finally be getting better. fingers crossed.

Cal
Cal
7 months ago

After the Pfizer today my left arm stoped working entirely for an hour anyone else have this problem it’s not very comfortable cause I can’t move my arm sometimes

Jen
Jen
7 months ago

All these people with varying degrees of pain in different parts of the arm? An immune system response? I received a 2nd Moderna shot 3 weeks ago. I got “covid arm” (red swollen patch adjacent to injection site)a day after receiving the shot. After about 3 days this disappeared but now a pain has started up that feels as if I burned myself on the oven yet there is no rash this time but it is extremely painful to the touch. I am beginning to wonder what is really happening. If researchers know it might be a good idea for… Read more »

Angie
Angie
7 months ago

I am glad I am not the only or rare percentage that is having sore arm from Pfizer vaccine after reading what everyone wrote on this site. But I am still worry that the soreness won’t go away. Had my first vaccine on June 15 on my left arm and still has that uneasy weird soreness. Sometimes i feel it, sometimes i don’t feel it. Depends on how i use my left arm. So annoying!!!! Hope it will go away soon!!! Worry getting my second shot!!!

Kim
Kim
7 months ago

I got my 2 shor of medorma around April and my left arm is bothering me with pain real bad

Del
Del
7 months ago

I had Astrazeneca nearly two weeks ago. Had a day in bed the next day but after that was fine except for a really sore upper arm. That started dissipating about 5 days later and was feeling much better – but this morning it’s really sore again! Not great because I have bad tennis elbow in the other arm!

JoJo
JoJo
7 months ago

I got my Pfizer first shot in my right arm on March 02 -21. My second shot on March 22-21 in my left arm. After all these months my left arm where I got the vaccine shot still hurts. Did anyone else have that problem? And secondly will this happen continue to hurt and not stop hurting.

Kay
Kay
7 months ago

I had moderna 1st dose last week around 3rd june i had a dead arm for 3 days but now its swollen and hot

Jacqueline Dover
Jacqueline Dover
7 months ago

I got the Covid vaccine May 11 now I can barely raise my arm it hurts so bad. It was really hot the first 3 weeks almost on fire when you touched it and had a hard bump NOw the redness is gone but pain is worse Any ideas

Lisa
Lisa
7 months ago

For the people here experiencing shoulder pain beyond the normal few days after vaccine, or nerve related issues in their shoulder/arm/hand, there is a support group on Facebook called “SIRVA- Shoulder Injury Related to Vaccine Administration.” I posted about this a few weeks ago here but it’s buried now in the thread. Just wanted to put it out there again if you’re searching for answers or support. I hope everyone heals quickly. 😊

Michele
Michele
7 months ago

I got my 2nd Pfizer shot on Feb. 27th. My arm wasn’t as sore as it was the first shot. However, yesterday 6/7/21 my arm started hurting and burning where I got the shot and today it’s worse… any ideas?

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