Thursday, March 19, 2015

Tips for making shots less painful

This morning two women at Starbucks were talking about how the one woman's daughter was going to need daily shots for something (I didn't catch what).  I felt bad about inadvertently overhearing, but as soon as she mentioned shots, I was paying attention, by choice or not.  Since I'm diabetic and I take shots all the time, it caught my attention, especially since she was talking about giving them to a little girl.

I gave her some quick advice on making the shots less traumatic: Get her to relax first (so that the shot hurts less going in), and give the injection slowly (so that it doesn't burn).  I wish I'd had more time to explain though, as it needed a more detailed explanation.

If I'd had more time, this is what I would have said.  This is what I've learned with my insulin injections, but I think it applies to other shots as well.

  • Get the smallest possible needles.  Needles are smaller than ever, and this goes for length as well as diameter.  Insulin needles especially are very small.  Unless I put my injection in a bad place, I can't even feel the needle while it's in.
  • Relax.  Relaxing the muscle where the shot is going to go is important.  A tense muscle will cause a more painful shot, both when the needle goes in and when the plunger is depressed.
  • Do the needle part faster, the injection part more slowly.  The needle will hurt less if it goes in relatively fast (not like you're stabbing, but not slowly, either).  Depress the plunger more slowly, though.  If you push it all the way down at once, it'll burn, especially if it's a large shot.  The tissue is having to expand to accommodate it all at once, and that hurts!  Instead, depress the plunger over a second or two instead to give the tissue time to expand more slowly.
This is just what I've found from my own experience.  Of course it may not hold true for everyone or every shot, and with some delivery systems (like insulin pens) you have less control over how fast the injection is delivered.  But it's worth a try, and especially with kids, worth remembering to slow it down and not try to rush it to get it over with -- you may actually be making it worse by doing that.

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