Sore Arm from a Shot? Here’s What to Do

covid-19 vaccination arm pain and soreness

By: Meridith Dunford PT, MSPT, OCS, Cert. DN.

Arm soreness after a flu shot or COVID vaccine booster is a side effect that is not so pleasant. It usually only lasts for a day or two. The pain in your arm is the immune system’s response to the vaccine, and that reaction includes inflammation.

Inflammation involves redness, soreness, and swelling. This occurs at the site of the injection, which is the middle deltoid muscle of your arm. One way to reduce this reaction is to move your arm around to keep the vaccine and its reaction from being concentrated in one location. 

Studies exploring muscle activation with EMG show that the best way to get your deltoid muscle moving to reduce soreness includes these five simple exercises listed below. So easy, you can do them in the privacy of your own home! (Refresh your screen if images do not appear.)

  1. Lateral deltoid raises 
  2. Standing shoulder external rotation in 90 degrees abduction
  3. Standing shoulder external rotation with the arm at side
  4. Overhead press
  5. Horizontal abduction with external rotation

Lateral Deltoid Raises

Stand or sit with your palms facing down and raise your arms up with elbows straight working out to shoulder level.

Standing Shoulder External Rotation in 90 Degrees Abduction

Standing with your arms out at shoulder level and elbows bent, rotate your hands up toward your head while keeping your elbows out at shoulder level.

Standing Shoulder External Rotation with Arm at Side

Keep your elbow at your side with your thumb up and elbow bent so your forearm is parallel to the floor, rotate the hand away from the stomach maintaining the forearm position and elbow in.

Overhead Press

Start with your hands in front of your chest and elbows bent. Press your arms up overhead straightening the elbows.

Horizontal Abduction with External Rotation

Hold your arms up at shoulder height with thumbs pointing outward (palms up) and reach your arms out beside your body then return to the middle.

Repetition throughout the day is important, so try to pick a few of the motions that work for you and perform up to 20 reps as often as every hour for the first day to help disperse the vaccine and reduce local muscle soreness. Performing exercises into the next day is also suggested if soreness continues. You can stop when the soreness has ceased.

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