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Self-Care – Pain After Shot to the Shoulder

Here, you can find ways to get relief on your own from pain in the deltoid when lifting your arm.  You can also read more about how people describe this pain and the activities that typically create the problem in this other post.

This post offers strategies for relief for the pain, swelling, and other trigger point activity related to vaccination. This doesn’t change the effectiveness of the vaccine or impact other symptoms such as rash, malaise, nausea, etc.

Activities To Avoid or Change:

Warn people that your shoulder hurts. Otherwise, you will learn that a pat on the shoulder is way more common than you’d think. Many of my clients complain that someone patted their shoulder, triggering the pain. Or, they suddenly are now realizing how often things in their environment touch that shoulder.

Trigger Point Trauma

The trigger point for this shoulder pain almost always becomes aggravated due to muscle trauma. This trauma is usually in the form of an accident, sports activity, or a vaccination. If your shoulder pain came from sports, avoid strenuous activities like lateral raises, overhand serves, or polo until this has time to mend. And, if this pain lingers for more than a few days, see a professional who can evaluate the injury and recommend a treatment course.

If you choose to “work-through” the pain with exercise or other tasks, be careful. The muscle should warm-up and the shoulder pain, if it is minor, should subside as you are working. However, if the pain doesn’t subside, stop and seek professional help.

For Temporary Relief:

An ice pack will bring circulation to the area, which promotes healing and distribution of the vaccine if that was the cause of the pain. You can read more about guidelines of how long to use the ice-pack and how that compares to using heat in this post.

These self-care activities, like over-the-counter drugs, are not intended to replace appropriate medical attention. If you have concerns about these self-care activities, get help from a professional. Use these suggestions and strategies with discretion and at your own risk. See your doctor when your pain is severe, persistent, or not responding to these simple suggestions.

Stretches and Exercises for Longer-Lasting Relief:

If you got this pain from a vaccine, anything that promotes circulation, from taking a hot shower to getting some exercise or folding clothes, will help. I worked out my upper body with dumbells the morning after my vaccine, and it helped. However, I still had unexpected sharp pain when I lifted my elbow later that morning. So, I did these stretches. That created quick relief that lasted. You can do these stretches under a hot shower, but they’re usually more effective with the ice cube.

The Right Tool for the Job

Me, my ice cube and the Band-Aid from the covid-19 vaccine

Stretching this area can offer temporary but lasting relief for shoulder pain from injections like vaccinations. This set of photos were made after I got my Covid vaccination.

After this routine, I had a good bit of immediate relief. About 90% of the sharp, achy pain and swelling was gone after about 20 minutes. It didn’t really bother me after that. However, my arm continued to be somewhat tender to firm pressure for a few days. After that, the area’s sensitivity has been about the same as the other shoulder.

I’m good at stretching and knowing the specific angle that produces good results. So, I got relief with a single, quick session in about 2 minutes. You may need to do this a few times and will get more relief each time. If so, give yourself 20 minutes or so between stretching sessions.

How to Get Relief

Here’s how to get started: Get some ice. A big cube is best. I use those cubes from the whiskey cube trays. A washcloth is needed to handle the cube and dry the skin as you go.

The Prep

Normally, Ice-and-Stretch is a few quick strokes. That is just enough to shock the skin and produce the right neurological effect.

In this case, there is often some swelling from the blow to the shoulder or the vaccination. My arm had a puffy, swollen section along the center where I had the vaccine.

Ice the shoulder with the ice cube.

  • Keep the ice moving. Ice cubes should not be held motionless while directly on the skin as damage to the skin can occur fairly quickly.
  • Keep your icing time to less than 2 minutes. If you’d like more relief, try again in 30-60 minutes. I iced for less than 20 seconds.

How This Works

  • The ice will neurologically disable trigger points by stimulating the nerve that carries hot, cold and pain. Simply put, the cold stimulus distracts the nerve and keeps it from generating pain signals. This sets you up for a stretch that releases more completely.
  • The ice will also bring blood to the area. This will reduce swelling by dispersing reactive agents and increasing circulation to the area.

The Stretches

Stretch the muscle by taking your arm across the front of your body.

  • Use the techniques of Active Isolated Stretching so that the muscle does not get overstretched. This will cause it to tighten and resist release.
  • Twist the elbow as you stretch. You will feel this in the fibers along the edges of the middle deltoid.
  • Do 4-6 repetitions. Extend until you feel light tension painful area, Hold them for about 2 seconds.
  • For some people, stretching with the elbow higher also pulls through this area.

    You can see in this photo how the deltoid twists around as the elbow is rotated so that the thumb turns down. Use this rotation to get slight increases in the tension on the muscle. This movement focuses on the fibers on the back of the deltoid muscle.

Switch the Focus

Stretch the muscle by taking your arm across the back of your body.

  • Again, use Active Isolated Stretching techniques so that the muscle does not get overstretched and more agitated.
  • Also, twist the elbow (more than the wrist) to focus on the fibers in the front of the shoulder. You’ll get more tension along the front border of the middle deltoid if you rotate your thumb up so that your palm turns away from your body.
  • Do 4-6 repetitions. Extend until you feel light tension painful area, Hold them for about 2 seconds.
  • Taking the elbow a little further behind the body also increases the stretch on the anterior deltoid.

I’d love your feedback on how this works for you and any suggestions you might have.
Email me at integrativeworks@gmail.com.

Yoga Corner

Many poses, like this one, Warrior II, will bother you as you raise your arm. Gentle sessions will promote circulation through the shoulder and disperse the irritants. Once the shoulder is warmed-up, it will bother you less during your practice and afterward.

Poses that stretch the posterior deltoid muscle, like eagle arms or thread the needle, will help to open the back of the shoulder. Poses that open the chest like camel will open the anterior shoulder as well. And, of course, more traditional stretches like the ones above are often included in yoga sessions.

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Tony Preston has a practice in Atlanta, Georgia, where he sees clients. He has written materials and instructed classes since the mid-90s. This includes anatomy, trigger points, cranial, and neuromuscular.

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*This site is undergoing significant changes. We are reformatting and expanding the posts to make them easier to read. The result will also be more accessible and include more patterns with better self-care. Meanwhile, there may be formatting, content presentation, and readability inconsistencies. Until we get older posts updated, please excuse our mess.