Adhesive Capsulitis and Vaccines

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Adhesive Capsulitis From a Vaccine

Flu shots and other vaccines can cause adhesive capsulitis, also known as frozen shoulder, which is a painful and debilitating condition characterized by severe stiffness of the affected shoulder and arm.

If you suffered frozen shoulder caused by a flu shot or other vaccine, contact our vaccine injury lawyers to see if you can obtain compensation from the National Vaccine Injury Compensation ProgramFlu shots and other vaccines are injected in the deltoid, which is the shoulder cap. If the injection is performed too high on the shoulder, the vaccine can penetrate the sensitive tendons and bursa within.

Adhesive Capsulitis | My Vaccine LawyerIf a vaccine penetrates the bursa sac or tendons, it can cause an inflammatory response. The inflammation can present in the bursa (bursitis), tendons (tendonitis), or around the rotator cuff. The cause of frozen shoulder is still a bit of a medical mystery. However, there is a direct correlation between traumatic shoulder injury and frozen shoulder.


Common Symptoms and Reactions

If any of these symptoms arise after a flu shot, it is likely that the person has frozen shoulder caused by the flu shot:

  • The characteristic “frozen” joint – it becomes almost impossible to move the arm without pain
  • Pain when moving the arm, especially moving the arm out to the side or behind
  • Worsening pain in cold weather
  • Worsening pain at night
  • Cramping
  • Severely restricted range of motion


Diagnosing the Injury

In some cases, the shoulder pain will resolve on its own within a week or two. If it does not, then the pain is likely caused by a significant injury such as frozen shoulder, tendinitis, or bursitis. A person suffering from shoulder injuries following vaccination should see their family doctor as soon as possible.

The primary care doctor will likely refer the patient to an orthopedic doctor who specializes in these injuries. In order to diagnose the injury, the orthopedic may order an MRI of the shoulder. However, frozen shoulder is relatively easy for a trained orthopedic doctor to diagnose due to the severely limited range of motion.

The MRI may show inflammation, fluid collection, swelling, or even tears. After the orthopedic reviews the MRI, they can offer a diagnosis that usually includes one or all of bursitis, tendinitis, adhesive capsulitis and rotator cuff tear.


Treatment Options for Frozen Shoulder

Doctors will treat not only the frozen shoulder symptoms but also the underlying cause of the frozen shoulder, such as bursitis or tendinitis. In mild cases, the patient will recover fully after a course of physical therapy. Physical therapy will usually be prescribed 2-3 times per week for a course of around 3 months.

If physical therapy is not beneficial, the orthopedic doctor may recommend corticosteroid injections. These steroid injections can relieve inflammation and help the patient regain some range of motion. In some cases the injections will completely remedy the problem. In others, the relief may be temporary. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary. Manipulation under anesthesia is commonly performed to break up scar tissue. If bursitis or tendinitis is to blame for the symptoms, surgery to repair those conditions may be necessary as well.



If you or someone you know suffered frozen shoulder caused by a flu shot or other vaccine, you may be entitled to compensation from the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. For more information, please contact our vaccine injury lawyers for a free consultation (800-229-7704). 

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