The Ongoing Shoulder Saga, Episode IV (A New Hope?)

Earlier this week, I had my first visit with an orthopedic specialist to examine my shoulder. It’s been over a month since I received my flu shot, and going into the visit, I wondered if it was even worth the trouble to look at my shoulder. While I still have pain in the shoulder, it’s no longer a constant ache. It seems to come and go during the week, with some days having little to no pain. (And days when storms are coming in resulting in a steady dull ache.) My range of motion has improved, too, and I can move my arm in most directions without a lot of pain.

Seeing how I’d made so much improvement, I expected the doctor to take a look at me, tell me it was healing well, and send me on my way.

When he came in, he listened to the full story of what I’d been experiencing over the past month. I showed him where the flu shot was given, and he agreed that the spot was higher than typically seen, although he also said that he’d expect the shot to still have stayed in the muscle at that spot. (He overestimates the amount of upper-body muscle I have.) He then asked several questions about movement issues I’ve been having, and then wanted to try some range of motion tests.

While I’ve felt like things have improved in that arm, he proved me partially wrong. Yes, movements aren’t hurting much anymore, but that’s because I’m no longer moving that arm as far as the right arm can move. When I tried to match the right side in some movements, I either re-found that pain in my shoulder again, or the shoulder simply wouldn’t go any further.

The doctor’s diagnosis matched up with my primary doctor’s original diagnosis of bursitis. He gave me two options for treatment: start physical therapy for the shoulder, or have a cortisone injection into the shoulder joint and THEN start physical therapy for the shoulder. I asked which he would recommend, and he thought the cortisone injection might help speed the physical therapy along, and would also take away much of the pain. Seeing how I’ve been conservative with therapy so far, I was willing to get things moving a little faster.

SIRVA diagnosis

A cortisone shot directly into a joint isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Although in this case, he did numb the area with lidocaine first, which I’m guessing was because of the large amount of cortisone in the huge syringe that was injected next. Although I still couldn’t help but note the irony of getting a shot to help my shoulder right in the same spot as the shot that started this whole mess.

He warned me that I could experience a “steroid flare-up” during the next day or two, where the joint would hurt more, but that after that it would calm down. I did have more pain and stiffness in my shoulder the next day, but today it feels pretty good. Scratch that – really good. I have only the faintest ache when stretching my arm over my head or behind my back.

Next up will be physical therapy to get my shoulder back in shape. I’m still unhappy that I have to go through this at all, but I’m hoping we’re near the end and the physical therapy will be enough to put this whole event behind me.

Edited to add: I did follow up with the Walgreens pharmacy. The pharmacist I spoke with said he’d report it in their system, but generally seemed unconcerned with what had happened to me, other than a flat, “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.” I know I need to make time to call their District next.

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  1. Hi Christina,
    Thank you for sharing your experience with your botched flu vaccination! My shoulder’s been in *major* pain since my flu shoot at a Rite Aid in Oct 2013. But being a guy who sometimes tries to tough it out, I didn’t put two and two together until the other day. I had been assuming that I had somehow injured my shoulder while lifting weights. But recently realized that the pain started right after I had my flu shot. It all makes sense now because after she gave me the flu shot, the pharmacist asked if I worked out. When I said yes, she said that explained why it was so difficult to administer my shot. She meant it as a compliment, but looking back she must’ve caused my shoulder injury. It hurts so bad, that I haven’t been able to lift weights since then. I can’t even do push-ups. Have you spoken with an attorney about your shoulder injury? I’m not a lawyer, but I would think pharmacies would be legally and financially responsible for causing these shoulder injuries.

  2. Christina, have you heard of the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program? It looks like something you should look into if you haven’t already. There are lots of attorneys who handle vaccine injury cases, it’s like it’s own industry. But here’s a link to a law firm’s website that does a good job explaining the details and the process:

    Hope this information helps and that your shoulder gets much better!

  3. Hi there! I found your site from a google search. I had the SAME thing happen! Please file a claim with Walgreens – you can get paid for your expenses!! If your treatment goes on longer than 6 months, which you may be approaching now, you definitely need to get a lawyer and do the national vaccine injury comp program as the above commenter mentioned. The program actually pays lawyer fees! You do have to file a $400 court fee but you can be reimbursed for your expenses as well as “pain and suffering”. I’m on month 8 of treatment. It has been no picnic but I’m so grateful it’s my left arm and not my right!! Anyway, contact me if you want more info/understanding – a fellow mommy :)

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