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6 things to know about needle injection shoulder injuries

Temporary shoulder pain is often expected after receiving a vaccine. It’s normal to experience some discomfort or soreness that results from an injection done by needle.

However, when the pain lasts longer than normal — days, weeks, sometimes years — you could be suffering from something much more serious: shoulder injury related to vaccine administration (SIRVA). The condition can be both long-lasting and intensely painful.

SIRVA is becoming more prevalent, yet there are still many misconceptions about it. Here are some facts about the condition that you should know.

1. Improper needle placement is the leading cause of SIRVA

According to vaccine attorney Leah Durant, who specializes in representing clients in vaccine injury claims under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, “The leading cause of SIRVA is the improper administration of a vaccine; that's to say administration of a vaccine that is given too high up on the shoulder.”

When a vaccine is injected too high on the arm, the needle can hit the bursa, a fluid-filled sac, instead of the intended muscle. The result is a pain that often progresses and leads to restrictions in range of motion, according to Dr. Joseph Mercola.

The uniqueness of SIRVA lies in the fact that it does not depend on what contents are injected, but, rather, how.

According to Durant, other factors related to SIRVA include whether the vaccine administrator stood to administer the vaccine while the patient was seated, whether the patient had low body fat and the needle used was too long, or whether the vaccine administrator was sufficiently trained to administer the vaccination correctly.

2. SIRVA injuries are common

A common misconception is that shoulder injuries caused by needle injections are rare, says Durant. In fact, they are becoming more and more common.

According to Mercola, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims has paid SIRVA awards in the millions of dollars since the condition was first identified.

3. Serious side effects are possible and should be treated

Mild side effects are common following vaccination— and for the most part are expected. The normal reactions caused by vaccines are soreness at the injection site, redness, swelling, tenderness or inflammation. Routine symptoms following vaccination can vary, are short-lived and often resolve on their own.

However, there are certain side effects that require individuals to be seen by a physician. These include sharp, stabbing pain, tingling or numbness, difficulty sleeping on the affected side, reduced range of motion, difficulty dressing, bathing, or completing basic daily living skills.

4. The side effects can be long-lasting

“One of the most common misconceptions is that needles used to administer vaccines are not capable of causing long-lasting injuries to the structures of the shoulder,” says Durant.

While mild side effects are expected to resolve on their own, pain that begins 0 to 48 hours after the injection and continues to worsen should prompt individuals to seek immediate medical attention.

5. Faulty administration of vaccines can lead to long lasting shoulder injuries

According to vaccine attorney Leah Durant, the most common types of shoulder injuries that occur after vaccination are: torn rotator cuff, bursitis, tendinitis, sharp stabbing pains and adhesive capsulitis or “frozen shoulder.”

According to Mayo Clinic, frozen shoulder is characterized by stiffness and pain in the shoulder joint. The condition occurs when the capsule of connective tissue that holds the bones, ligaments and tendons thickens and tightens around the shoulder joint, resulting in greatly reduced range of motion, or an inability to move at all.

Other complications that can result from vaccines administered via hypodermic needle are nerve damage such as brachial neuritis, or inflammation of the joint.

6. Treatments are available

Depending on the type of injury, there are several treatment options available for individuals suffering from SIRVA.

“These kinds of injuries are often treated with medication, therapy, steroid injections and even surgery,” says Durant.

For more information about SIRVA, visit vaccinelaw.com.

—Dana Fouchia for Law Offices of Leah V. Durant PLLC

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
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