According to new vaccine guidance published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, soreness at the injection site in your arm is the most common side effect. But good news, there is a simple hack you can perform to lessen the pain.
Although this symptom goes away after a few days for most, health systems have already contributed literature on how to reduce its intensity.
Infectious disease specialist and professor of medicine, Peter Chin-Hong, MD, says it’s important to increase blood flow to the vaccinated arm immediately after and routinely following, the days you receive your COVID-vaccine shot.
Moving the vaccinated arm around in a circular motion can help disperse the vaccine dose into the bloodstream where it can target other parts of the body and limit muscle pain.
Why the vaccine makes our arms sore
There are two different kinds of adverse vaccine side effects.
The first, systemic, refers to side effects that occur throughout the entire body, or away from where the shot was given. The most common of these symptoms with respect to the COVID-19 vaccine are headaches, fever, chills, and tiredness.
Local side effects denote adverse effects that happen in the area where the vaccine shot was given. The most common of these with respect to the COVID-19 vaccine include arm soreness, redness, swelling, and/or swollen lymph nodes in the arm where the shot was given.
The pain and inflammation caused by a vaccine shot are signs that our bodies are delivering antibodies to the injection site. Some people experience soreness in the arm after their injection as a result of muscles reacting to small amounts of vaccine liquid entering their muscles. In any case, the presence of soreness and discomforts are actually good things.
“People shouldn’t be concerned about vaccine soreness. This uncomfortable feeling in your arm, along with all the other systemic and local side effects, are signs that your immune system is working, reacting to the vaccine, and protecting you from the virus you were just vaccinated against. These side effects are usually mild and typically go away within a few days. While more serious vaccine side effects are possible, they are extremely rare,” Andrew Purdy, PharmD of Purdue University wrote in a recent paper.
Getting motion in the vaccinated arm immediately after you get your shot may significantly reduce soreness the following day, in addition to expediting the vaccine’s impact. Despite conventional wisdom, Dr. Chin-Hong advises against massaging tender injection sites.
“If you massage the area it probably isn’t going to be as good as moving your arm like a windmill because it’s just making the vaccine just stay in the muscle area so it’s not increasing blood supply,” Chin-Hong explained.
Staying still has been studied to increase muscle soreness at the injection site.
In Purdy’s recent paper, he goes on to provide a 3 point guideline to reducing soreness after you receive your COVID-19 vaccine:
- Keep your arms moving and use it throughout the day
- Place a clean, cool, wet washcloth over the area
- Take a pain-relieving medication such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or aspirin (but only consider this after you get the vaccine, not before)