What is SIRVA?
Shoulder injury related to vaccine administration, or SIRVA, happens when a vaccine is injected too high or too deep in the shoulder. Injecting the vaccine this way can lead to intense and prolonged pain and other shoulder injuries, such as a rotator cuff tear or tendonitis.
Shoulder injections are typically given in the deltoid muscle. When the injection is given too high or too deep in this muscle, the needle can hit bone or puncture the fluid-filled sac called the bursa, which protects the tendons in the shoulder. When this happens, the bursa, tendons and ligaments can become inflamed.
SIRVA can happen when a provider uses a needle that is too long for the patient or does not inject in the correct spot in the shoulder.
What are the symptoms of SIRVA?
Most vaccinations into the shoulder can cause muscle irritation. However, pain from SIRVA results from injury and inflammation in the shoulder joint and can be intense and long lasting.
Shoulder pain is the most common symptom of SIRVA, and it can begin immediately or up to 48 hours after the injection. Your shoulder can also be difficult to move.
How is SIRVA diagnosed?
People with symptoms of SIRVA should see a doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor will do a physical examination and may order tests to look for injury or inflammation in your shoulder.
It’s important to tell your doctor that your symptoms began soon after a vaccination, since that may be the key to getting the correct diagnosis.
How is SIRVA treated?
Treatments for SIRVA are similar to those for other shoulder injuries. Your doctor may recommend one or more of the following treatments:
- Rest. SIRVA injuries involve inflammation, and simply resting the muscle, ligaments and tendons in your shoulder may lead to recovery.
- Physical therapy. Physical therapy can help improve your range of motion and muscle strength and speed your healing process.
- Pain medication. This can include ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Your doctor may also suggest a prescription medication.
- Steroid injections or oral steroids. If other treatments haven’t helped, your doctor may prescribe a steroid medication to suppress inflammation. Your doctor will assess your condition carefully before prescribing this medication.
- Surgery. If SIRVA has caused a condition that can be helped with surgery, your doctor may recommend a specific procedure as a final option.
Can vaccines cause SIRVA?
Although most SIRVA injuries happen with the seasonal flu shot, it’s not the vaccine itself that causes the injury. SIRVA can be caused by any vaccine injection, and the high number of injuries with the flu shot happen because so many people get this injection every year.
The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) includes SIRVA as a covered injury. You may qualify to receive compensation for a SIRVA claim.
Have you been injured?
Many people with SIRVA don’t realize that their symptoms are the result of a vaccination. If you have shoulder pain that began within 48 hours of a vaccination, along with restricted movement in your shoulder, you could be suffering from SIRVA.