Yet Another Update On My Shoulder

It’s flu shot season, which means that the traffic has started to pick up on my first post regarding the shoulder injury I suffered as a result of my flu shot in early 2014. I’m sorry to see so many comments from others that they’ve had similar experiences and to see the same question over and over: will this ever get better?

I guess I’m overdue for an update on my own experience with SIRVA. When I last discussed this over a year ago, I had received yet another steroid injection for my shoulder when the pain returned. That particular cortisone shot left me feeling that I was finally done with treatments as my shoulder felt fine for all of winter and much of the spring.

But then in April of this year, I was again aware of that nagging ache coming from my left shoulder. I tried to be gentle with that shoulder for a week or two, hoping it would go away, but like before it only intensified and I noticed my pain-free range of motion decreasing.

When I visited my ortho doc in May, he ordered new x-rays to check for any calcification in the joint that could be causing pain. The x-rays were uneventful, and the diagnosis remained as a reoccurring bursitis. He gave me another cortisone injection, and we both hoped that this would be the final shot needed. After all, if the previous one lasted for eight months, maybe this one would last even longer…like permanently?

It wasn’t meant to be.

My doctor and I reunited in September when I had agonizing shoulder pain that was making it difficult to even get dressed each day. The pain was sharp with certain motions, and otherwise a low-grade ache the remainder of the time. Ibuprofen did little to help.

At this point, all I wanted was another cortisone injection to stop the pain. Which meant I was ready to cry when my doctor declared that it was time to stop the shots.


He said that over time the cortisone shots can begin to lose their effectiveness, and each injection can increase the risks of additional damage to the joint. Surgery was presented as the next step to clean out the shoulder joint and look for any scar tissue or damage to remove.

The bad news: my chances of having the pain resolved by surgery (and physical therapy after surgery, of course) was better than 50-50, but not by much. A high number of patients still have shoulder pain after surgery.

The bad news that related specifically to me: after surgery , there’s no exercise allowed at all for 1-2 weeks, and then no exercise involving the shoulder for another 2-3 weeks.

I was numb at this point. I quickly explained why surgery wasn’t an option for me at that time: I was registered for the Columbus Half Marathon on October 18, with two more half marathons in November. These were my first half marathons, and this was the start of race season; I couldn’t spend 1-2 weeks with no activity to risk or give up on races with a lot of time and money invested. But I also stressed that I couldn’t go on with the pain.

My ortho doc is part of a sports medicine practice, so he understands the needs of athletes. (HA! First time ever that I’ve suggested I’m an athlete. Writing that made me laugh!)

My pleas sunk in. We compromised and agreed on a cortisone shot that day, but that’s the absolute last one. The next time the pain comes back – whether in 3 months, 6 months, 9 months – it’ll be surgery time. I’ll be mindful of this in planning races for 2016, knowing that if the pain comes back right before a big race, I might need to ditch the race or endure the pain until after the race.

Wine and Dine medalAnd I did run those races – more on that soon!

The latest relapse happened after only four months, and even though I wish it would go away, experience tells me it’ll be back. In fact, I’ve started to have a sore shoulder this week, and I keep hoping I slept on it wrong and it’ll go away soon. I’m scared at the thought of surgery and even more worried that I’ll endure the pain and expense of surgery and it won’t work.

My frustration has turned to anger. I’ve previously considered filing an injury report to the federal government and then seeking compensation through the vaccine injury courts, and I may be ready to do it now. In less than two years, I’ve endured a lot of unnecessary pain, I’ve spent a lot of time and money on trying to recover from SIRVA, and now I’m facing surgery, which also won’t be cheap. Had I decided to skip my flu shot in January 2014 or waited to get it at my doctor’s office, it’s likely this never would have happened.

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  1. A friend got a flu shot in her doctors office this year and appears to have developed this problem. So using your dr’s nurse for the shot is no guarantee unfortunately.

  2. Hi Christina, I had a Prevnar 13 Pneumonia shot on Sept. 29, 2015. I have been experiencing the exact pain and issues that you had from your flu shot. I’ve been so upset. I went to the Orthop. Dr. in Oct. 2015 and he took xrays that only showed that I have arthritis. I know that this came on right after the injection was given. I think from what you said, that mine was given in the wrong area of the muscle too. I had hot-searing pain in the beginning, and after the 3rd week, I felt terrible pain near the shoulder and the arm from tiny movements. Now it is Dec. 19, and I’m waiting to go for an MRI on Tues, Dec. 22. I’m so sorry you’re still going thru the pain, but I hope both you and eventually I can get full relief. I haven’t gotten any cortisone injections yet, but I will be seeing another orthopedist in Januray 2016, and hopefully with the report and the MRI I too can get some relief. Thank you so much for your article- now I know that I’m not crazy and that it is probably from the way the injection was given. I will be contacting my doctor who’s nurse gave me the shot as soon as I have all the info. Please keep me updated and any suggestions you have would be wonderful. Good luck to you too.
    Sincerely, Suzanne

    • HI Suzanne,
      I also got the flu shot and pneumonia shot in my right arm and am suffering as well with all that you wrote about. Are you any better????


  3. Laurie Reed says:

    I am sorry you are going through all of this. I had a similar experience and was treated as bursitis and then a rotator cuff injury. Steroid injections and PT, braces, and all that jazz didn’t help. It all started shortly after my flu shot but I am convinced now it is completely unrelated. I suffered on and off for almost 1.5 years.I would lay in bed and cry, rub my arm, ice, heat, medication… nothing nothing nothing helped. 1.5 years later I happened to hurt my back and went to see a spine doctor but somehow managed to complain about my shoulder and excruciating pain in my arm. He asked a few questions and immediately sent me for an MRI of my neck. Well, low and behold I had two badly herniated discs in my cervical spine. 2 steroid injections (over a few weeks) in the cervical spine later and the pain was 100% gone!! 100%! It has been a year now pain free. Sometimes pain doesn’t come from where we think nor where the doctors are telling us it coming from. Keep advocating for yourself! I feel like a new person!

    • Dear Laurie, thanks for your response and so sorry you too went thru so much pain thinking it was the shot. I’m glad that they found out what was wrong and have treated you and you’re doing better. I had an mri finally but I’m in Florida and can’t get into the doctor until Jan5 5. Got the written report and had someone look at it. Unfortunately there seems to be several things wrong with my shoulder and I have no idea for the course of action. He doesn’t think it’s related to the pneumonia injection, but I’m still convinced that either the wey the injection was administered or what the serum was made coincidentally exasperated the underlying condition because you don’t get hit, searing pain thru your muscle for weeks after the injection and that it didn’t start all this pain.

      • In January 2016 I had an MRI OF MY right shoulder and arm and it was found that I had numerous tears in my barm and shoulder. But the Ortthopedic Doctor said these tears have been there before and not from the shot. He did see there was a large amount of fluid in my sshoulder. He gave me the two injections of cortisone, one in the front of my shoulder and one towards the back close to my arm, close to the site where the injection was given . Within 24 hours I was a new person. I was out of pain, able to move my arm but still no answers as to what the exact cause was. I still think that there was something in the Prevnar 13 that caused me to have a severe reaction . You can be sure I will never have another injection in my right arm or any other pneumonia injections. If anyone gets any answers, please contact me.

  4. I’m so sorry this has been an ordeal – and all because you were trying to protect your health! 🙁

  5. Antoinette Certa says:

    OMG, I read your follow up and feel so parallel to you; I moved into anger myself and yet, nothing to do but keep going forward. Being a nurse, I too, am reluctant of surgery knowing the odds and having to go through yet another who knows how long in PT…and not moving my arm for quite awhile. What about my job? That is not a great thing to do when I will probably need months off of work. What a miserable set of circumstances. I greatly want someone to compensate me for the pain, time, misery I’ve gone through, but I doubt that’s going to happen. Most of all, I pray every day that this pain (7 on a scale of 1-10) at least 30-40% of the time will please go away. I hope you find some satisfactory resolution.

  6. I have finally put this all together, thanks to all that I have read. My husband keep saying he had NEVER heard me ever complain like I have been about my sour shoulder and arm. I thought I was doing the right thing to not know what in the world did I do! Now I have NO DOUBT, it was the flu shot and pneumonia shot in my right arm. I was sitting down as the gale at SAM’S CLUB shot me up! That night I was so much in pain, crying for 2 days. That was December 29th 2015. I got a cortisone shot by a orthopedic Doctor. I explain about the shots and he said it was not that but I had Frozen Shoulder! Well, guess what, I am convinced that it was the shots! I have never had any physical problems. Consider myself very healthy until this. Has anyone recovered?

    Thanks you taking the time to share all of this. At least I feel I am not alone!