Why does SIRVA happen during a vaccine?
Updated: Nov 12, 2021
Most of us have experienced some pain, swelling, or redness after receiving a vaccination. A small amount of pain for a short while is normal. These symptoms will most often resolve within 24 hours, but can last up to 3-5 days and, for DTaP may last up to a week. In no case, should these symptoms last longer than a week. If your pain starts within 48 hours of your injection and lasts longer than a few days, you may likely be experiencing a rare injury called a SIRVA.
Folks who experience a SIRVA may have extreme pain and a limited range of motion lasting months to years which can affect your ability to the activities of daily living like putting on clothes, washing, or even driving. But, what is SIRVA and why does it happen?
SIRVA is a rare condition that affects the shoulder after a vaccination. The reason it happens has less to do with the contents of the needle, than how it is placed in your arm. SIRVA stands for "Shoulder Injury Related to Vaccine Administration." You may have noticed that the title of the injury gives a clue to when and how it happens: at vaccine administration.
Vaccine needles are supposed to be placed in the deltoid muscle. However, if the needle goes beyond the muscle into the joint space or shoulder bursa, which sometimes occurs if the needle is placed too high in the shoulder, there will often be an inflammatory response. That inflammatory response can lead to some fairly common shoulder conditions such as bursitis, rotator cuff tears, or adhesive capsulitis (also known as "frozen shoulder").
Often patients who have a SIRVA will be diagnosed with these or similar conditions. The only difference between these conditions and SIRVA is that these conditions will have appeared within a couple of days of a shoulder-administered vaccination. Therefore, SIRVA describes the improper placement of the needle which results in the above shoulder injuries.
If you experience extreme pain and limited arm mobility which starts within days after a vaccination and lasts for longer than just a few days, you may have a SIRVA. If that is the case, you should see your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
Also, if it turns out that you do have a SIRVA, you may be entitled to compensation by the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, and you should seek the assistance of an attorney experienced in that program.