How To Minimize Arm Pain After Getting The Flu Shot

Flu season is almost here, and with the added concern of the COVID-19 virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly recommend that everyone who is 6 months old and older get the flu vaccine.

Some people may hesitate to get the flu vaccine because they believe the flu shot will give them the flu (it won’t) or because they’re afraid of the pain that comes with getting shots. While taking the sting out of the injection entirely may not be possible for many people, there are ways to minimize the pain both during and after the injection.

First, it’s important to understand why your arm hurts after the flu vaccine. The most obvious factor is that the vaccine introduces a needle into the arm muscle and injects fluid into it.

But it’s not just the needle that’s bothersome. For some vaccine recipients, there is swelling and pain at or near the injection site for a couple of days after receiving the shot. This reaction is considered to be a good sign by doctors.


“The reason why your arm specifically is sore is that your immune system is giving you a robust response to the flu vaccination,” Dr. Juanita Mora told the American Lung Association’s blog, Every Breath.

The good news is that you can help reduce the discomfort from the flu shot by taking a few simple actions.

Before Getting The Vaccine

  1. If you know you normally experience pain and swelling with an injection, take ibuprofen (if you are able) about two hours before you get your shot. Then, continue taking the medication, as directed, for one to two days following the vaccine.
  2. Get the shot in your non-dominant arm. So, if you’re right-handed, get the flu vaccine in your left arm.
  3. Try to relax the arm where you will get the shot. Muscle tension in the arm leads to restricted blood flow, which can make the pain worse.


After Getting The Vaccine

  1. Alternate placing ice packs and heat packs on the injection area if it’s sore. The combination of heat and cold can help reduce swelling.
  2. Keep the arm moving after receiving the shot to increase blood flow and promote the dispersal of the vaccine in your body. If you keep the arm from moving too much, it can cause more pain.

While getting a vaccine is never much fun, the protection you receive from the flu shot will help keep your family and community healthy during a challenging flu season.