How Can I Prevent Pain in My Arm After a Flu Shot?

Flu shots are more important this year than ever, so I hope you all plan yours if you haven’t already. But when you do, you may have shoulder pain for a couple of days. The reader asks if there is a good way to prevent this soreness:

You should write an article on how to avoid the pain of a flu shot as much as possible, because I always forget how damn painful this thing is. Getting up at 4 o’clock in the morning hurts. Oh my God.

Not everyone gets a hand pain after getting a flu shot, but it’s fairly common. Pain occurs because your immune system has to respond to an antigen in a vaccine (preparing your immune system is the whole point of getting vaccinated), and this process involves inflammation, and inflammation typically includes soreness, redness, and swelling. These are the most common side effects of nearly every vaccine.

The degree of inflammation from the flu shot is fairly minimal, and many of us have mild pain, but everyone experiences it differently. For example, some people tolerate pain better than others, and pain also has a lot to do with anticipation: if you expect a shot to hurt and spend a lot of time thinking about how much it hurts, you may have a harder time than that. who gets distracted and forgets to even think about it.

Pain can also vary from shot to shot. Some vaccines have a reputation for being more painful than others , probably because their contents trigger a stronger immune response. If I ever get more than one vaccine at one visit, I always ask if one is causing more pain than the other and choose which one hits which shoulder accordingly.

Ways to Reduce Pain from Flu Shots

First, be aware that there may be some pain and plan for it. Take a shot in the left shoulder, for example if you are right-handed. If you often get sick after your flu shot, consider not scheduling your shot just before your training day at the gym.

Then ask your doctor if you can take a pain reliever, such as ibuprofen, before or after your shot. Sometimes it helps. (For immediate pain from the injection, you can also try any of the tips we wrote about for kids , like using ice or a local anesthetic, or distracting yourself by watching a video, or chewing hard candy. Contact your doctor about this too.)

Relax your muscles before inserting the needle. Injections tend to cause more pain if the muscle is tense.

Finally, after firing, turn your arm around you . This can help because it moves the injected fluid around your hand a bit, so it doesn’t concentrate in one place when an inflammatory reaction occurs. Also, it’s important to understand that this is just soreness, not a major injury, and that you can move and use your shoulder. Don’t get away with it. We’re not sure if a few hands-on circles after a shot can actually reduce the pain at night, but overall muscle soreness tends to improve with movement.

Get help if it’s hard

This is assuming you have a normal amount of pain, which can last up to several days of the same soreness you might get from a hard workout.

If you feel anything more, contact your doctor. Serious complications from a flu shot are rare but possible. For example, if a needle misses your muscle and enters one of the fluid-filled sacs around your shoulder joint, you may experience pain, weakness, and possible damage to the nerves in your shoulder. (This is rare because people who get vaccinated tend to do their job well, but we know it as a disease because, well, it happens sometimes.)

If the pain is so severe that you cannot sleep, I would talk to your doctor, or if you do not have a therapist, just call the clinic where you were vaccinated. But mild soreness is normal, and you can use the tips above to reduce your chances of feeling it the next time.

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