Anyone over the age of 12 can get the COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S., bringing young people out in droves to finally get inoculated. The recent surge in youth vaccinations has brought the vaccine conversation to TikTok, prompting a new trend. A theory is circulating on the video-sharing platform that if you wildly swing the arm where you received the shot immediately after a COVID vaccine, it will help with swelling and pain. Is there any legitimacy to this claim?
Experts say milder symptoms after attempting the TikTok arm swinging method are probably the result of a “placebo effect.” The viral vaccine hack certainly won’t cause any harm to participants, but it also “won’t do anything” to aid with pain, according to Beate Kampmann, director of the Vaccine Centre at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
“It’s harmless, looks very silly, and won’t do anything,” Kampmann told the Guardian. “The sore arm does not actually happen immediately, as the immune response has not yet happened, and not everyone gets it either.”
Within a few hours after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, it is normal for some people to experience stiffness and pain at the injection site. This can sometimes last for several days. The soreness will eventually disappear, particularly if helped along by painkillers, the application of cold compresses, or, potentially, moving the arm around to aid with blood flow. While no experts specifically pointed to the TikTok swing method, several did note that moving the limb can aid in pain relief.
As for wildly swinging the arm around like a windmill? It probably won’t help with pain, but experts note that placebo effects can often be immensely helpful for patients. If patients, particularly young people, feel that the arm swing trend assists with their post-COVID vaccine pain, they should flap to their hearts’ content.
Representatives from AstraZeneca noted that, while they are “certainly not aware of it being helpful,” they are “loth to rule anything out.” Pfizer and Moderna felt there was insufficient evidence to warrant a comment. Some experts believe a randomized controlled trial is due if only to rule out the possibility that the TikTok trend is actually effective.
Azeem Majeed, head of the Department of Primary Care & Public Health at Imperial College London, noted that even if the trend is ineffective, some good has already come of it. Particularly since a number of social media influencers are teaming up to combat vaccine hesitancy.
“If it raises awareness of the jab and makes it seem like a joyful, playful thing, then that’s a very good outcome to the dance,” he said.
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