My SIRVA story, 3 month update

At the time I started this website with my first post about SIRVA, I was almost exactly 2 months out from the fateful flu shot that caused my shoulder injury and was casting out for ideas about how to reduce the pain and recover sooner. Today is exactly 3 months out and I thought I’d provide an update on where things stand for me. Although at this point I still have more questions than answers, I have found other peoples’ posts like this very helpful (like this one and the follow-up posts), so here is my experience.

Month 1: Panic, diagnosis

My flu shot was on December 13, 2017. It hurt right away, much more than in years past. About 2 weeks after my shot, still in intense pain, I went into an urgent care clinic (it was the holidays, I couldn’t get an appointment with my doctor) and the doctor there was skeptical (didn’t think it was the flu shot) but gave me a referral to an orthopedist (shoulder specialist) and told me to see my primary care doctor when I could.

Ow! My shoulder!

Month 2: Appointments with everybody

By the time I got an appointment with them, it was about a month after the shot. My orthopedist did a few tests with my arm to feel out the pain and immediately recognized that the problem was subacromial bursitis/impingement caused by the flu shot (UPDATE: This was probably not an accurate diagnosis of where the flu shot entered, but it was the best he could do with the tools available at his clinic.) He says he sees a “couple of cases of this every year” (so where are all of us? WHY DON’T MORE DOCTORS KNOW ABOUT THIS?) and said he thought it would resolve in about 3 months total. He ordered an MRI to confirm that there were no rotator cuff tears.

The MRI came back and my orthopedist told me he sees evidence of “significant fluid” in the subacromial bursa, confirming his original diagnosis (again, please read the update). He gave me a cortisone (steroid) shot to the subacromial bursa, along with a warning that it might not help; indeed, it increased my pain for a few days and when that wore off it wasn’t any better.

I also started PT, but all of the practitioners I talked to were of the opinion that there’s not much that can be done with physiotherapy for the actual primary injury (it is, after all, an immune system-generated reaction to the vaccine in the wrong place that causes the inflammation), but PT is important to avoid potentially getting a frozen shoulder. By the time I started PT, I had tension, stiffness, and pain in a whole constellation of muscles surrounding the injured shoulder. I find that PT helps with that, and they can work on “tightness” of the shoulder capsule, but they can’t make the vaccine agents flush out of the shoulder joint any faster, as far as I know.

Month 3: Trying everything

I’ve been doing PT, home exercises, NSAIDs (440 mg naproxen twice a day), and all manner of balms and creams to take away the pain in these 3 months, and I just have to say that the pain goes up and down and I don’t know what helps it and what doesn’t. For the sake of my sanity, I’ve been running, also on the theory that pumping my arms will help with circulation in the shoulder (and it doesn’t cause extra pain because it’s not reaching overhead or anything), but I don’t find that running helps or hurts. I have tried (briefly) acupuncture, laser therapy, kinesio tape, and massage. I can’t say any of these things help, and they certainly hurt the wallet.

My pain surged greater for no apparent reason about 2 weeks ago (2.5 months out) and manifests right now as constant aching in the muscles around the shoulder, as well as sharp pain in the shoulder when I reach forward or overhead or behind me (as if to grab a seatbelt in the car). On the advice of the acupuncturist, I started keeping a pain diary, which will help me keep track of which treatments seemed helpful.

Please leave a message with your experience with SIRVA and please take the SIRVA survey so we can all learn more about what has and hasn’t worked for you. THANKS!

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Hi, I'm Amy, and I started this webpage when I got SIRVA to help gather together information about treating it.

6 thoughts on “My SIRVA story, 3 month update”

  1. I had the misfortune of learning about SIRVA while researching why a flu shot would cause intense shoulder pain long after the injection, which was 3 weeks ago. In the past the annual shots had caused little to no pain, but this year there was intense pain during the injection. (My husband, who got his immediately after mine, didn’t even feel the needle go in.) Thanks to sites like yours, I was able to pinpoint the cause of my intense, ever increasing pain the second week after getting the shot. I immediately started doing exercises I found on the internet and have taken Tylenol periodically when the pain gets unbearable. I also found sleeping with a small pillow tucked into the armpit of the injured arm gives helpful support so the weight of my arm is not pulling on my shoulder. I have had pretty good sleep the last two nights doing this. Additionally, I have a small hand-held electric massager which I have used on my upper arm, avoiding the bursa area, which has helped a lot. I went online to report my adverse reaction into the federal database, vaers.hhs.gov. Best of luck to all of you who are suffering. This does suck!

    1. Hi M, good luck and nice job on figuring out some things that have helped!! Thanks for sharing. Yeah, I have gotten a flu shot every year and normally I don’t even really feel it at all! This time, it hurt so bad, I remembered thinking right when the shot went in: “I guess some people are good at it and some people are bad it, so sometimes it just hurts more” (just like getting blood drawn). Nope—sometimes when it hurts real bad going in, it’s a sign of something much worse. I hope yours resolves quickly. Thanks for the reminder about the federal database.

      Amy

  2. I think this is what is happening with me as well. I am a right handed contractor and I am concerned this will bring me to a stop at work. It has been a month since I got a tetanus shot in my right shoulder and I seems to be getting worse. Have you had any progress since the last post?

    1. Hi Joel, yes, I have had some improvement on a weekly basis since my last post—but I’m 10.5 months out right now and have tried every possible intervention, including surgery. I very much hope your shoulder gets better quicker than that. It would be good for you to get an MRI and appointment with an orthopedist who may be able to forecast whether you have bad damage or not too severe; if you have good health insurance coverage, I would definitely do that if I were you. There are cases that resolve in ~3 months or less on their own—good luck and I hope you are not impacted too much for work. Let me know how things go.

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