Prolonged exposure to fluid shear stress alters leukocyte functions associated with the immune response. We examined the initial response of freshly isolated human leukocytes to fluid shear stress under high magnification. Adherent leukocytes exhibit a rapid biomechanical response to physiological levels of fluid shear stress. After passive displacement in the direction of a constant fluid shear stress, adherent leukocytes actively recoil back in the opposite direction of the fluid flow. Recoil is observed within seconds of the applied fluid shear stress. Simultaneously, fluid shear stress induces a stiffening of the cell. The immediate cell displacement in response to a step increase in fluid shear stress is greatly attenuated in subsequent steps compared to the initial fluid shear stress step. Recoil is not mediated by actin polymerization-dependent mechanisms, as cytochalasin D had no effect on this early response. However, stiffening was determined in part by an intact actin cytoskeleton. Inhibiting myosin force generation with ML-7 abolished the recoil and stiffening responses, implicating force generation by myosin as an important contributor to the early leukocyte response to fluid shear stress. This initial shear stress response may be particularly important in facilitating leukocyte attachment under sustained fluid shear stress by the flowing blood in the microcirculation.