The COVID-19 Vaccine and Your Bones and Joints
Many orthopaedic patients have questions about how the COVID-19 vaccine might impact their bones and joints.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) has recently stated that the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine strongly outweigh the orthopaedic risks. AAOS gives its full support for the widespread adoption of the vaccine.
This resource was created to help address concerns you may have about the effect of the COVID-19 vaccine on your musculoskeletal health. If you have any questions or need more information, please contact your orthopaedic surgeon.
About the COVID-19 Vaccine
The vaccines that have been developed to protect against COVID-19 differ from traditional vaccines in that they do not inject a live or deactivated virus into the body. Instead, a piece of laboratory-manufactured genetic material called messenger RNA (mRNA) is injected. The mRNA instructs the body’s cells to manufacture a “spike protein” that is found on the surface of the COVID- 19 virus.
The body then develops immunity to the “spike protein,” which protects against the virus.
Since the COVID-19 vaccine does not contain live or “attenuated” virus material, it cannot give you the disease.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that you have the vaccine even if you have had a COVID-19 infection and recovered.
General Side Effects
Some patients may experience side effects after vaccination, but these are typically mild and go away in a few days. Common reactions include:
- Swelling or redness at the site of the injection
- Systemic reactions, such as fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, muscle aches, or fatigue
True allergic or life-threatening reactions following vaccination are extremely rare.
The CDC recommends that you have the COVID-19 vaccine even if you have had an allergic reaction to food, oral medications, pets, or environmental toxins, such as dust or latex, in the past. If you have had an allergic reaction to another vaccine or to injectable medication, the CDC recommends that you consult your regular physician before receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
If you are allergic to polyethylene glycol—one of the ingredients used in the COVID-19 vaccine—the CDC advises against being vaccinated.
Orthopaedic Side Effects
Like most vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccine is injected into the deltoid muscle on the side of the arm. Some patients worry that receiving an injection in this area could permanently injure their shoulder. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, this is unlikely to occur.
Subacromial bursitis, rotator cuff tendinitis, and glenohumeral arthritis (arthritis of the shoulder joint) are all shoulder conditions that are commonly seen in adults. Studies show that these conditions occur no more often in patients who have received vaccination than they do in the overall population.
Beyond this, the injection is given in the deltoid muscle below the space where bursitis or tendinitis would occur and outside the glenohumeral joint where patients might experience arthritis. Even if the vaccine is inadvertently injected into either of these spaces, studies have shown that it will have no harmful side effects.
Vaccination and Elective Orthopaedic Surgery
If you are scheduled for elective orthopaedic surgery—such as an arthroscopy or a joint replacement—and you have received one or two doses of the vaccine, you may wonder if it is safe to proceed with your procedure. There is no evidence that vaccination will interfere with your surgery or recovery.
In some circumstances, however, your surgeon may recommend waiting for two or three days after vaccination to have your surgery—just to ensure that you have no side effects. By the same token, your surgeon may recommend postponing vaccination until a few days after your surgery. This is to ensure that any problems you may experience after your procedure are not mistaken for side effects of the vaccine.
If you have any questions about the timing of your surgery, your orthopaedic surgeon will be able to guide you.
If you have an acute injury—such as a sprain or broken bone—but you are not having surgery, there is no reason to delay vaccination.
Vaccination and Corticosteroid Injections
If you are having a corticosteroid injection for an orthopaedic condition, such as arthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome, your doctor may advise you to wait for a few days after the injection before receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. He or she may also recommend waiting for a period of time after vaccination.
Your doctor can answer any questions you may have about the timing of corticosteroid injections and COVID-19 vaccination.
After You Are Vaccinated
Even though the two major COVID-19 vaccines available today are around 94% effective, you should continue to follow all community rules and precautions concerning COVID-19 after vaccination. There is still a very small chance that you can get COVID-19. Also, even though the vaccine helps protect you from getting sick, it is not known if you could still be a carrier of the virus. For these reasons, you should continue to wear a mask, practice social distancing, avoid crowds and wash your hands often.
COVID-19 vaccines produce an antibody reaction that protects you from the disease. Many patients who have had the virus have a positive antibody test. However, it is not known if the vaccine will cause a positive antibody test in patients who have been vaccinated but not had the virus.
Contributed and/or Updated by
AAOS does not endorse any treatments, procedures, products, or physicians referenced herein. This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific orthopaedic advice or assistance should consult his or her orthopaedic surgeon, or locate one in your area through the AAOS Find an Orthopaedist program on this website.