You probably cannot avoid getting an injection (or shot) at some point. Various medicines and vaccines are given by injection, and even if a blood test has to be performed, you must have blood drawn. Many people are afraid of needles and the pain they think they cause. By taking certain steps you can make the injection hurt less.
Part 1 of 3: Preparing for your injection
Step 1. Ask where the injection will be given
The preparation for the injection depends on where on your body the injection will be given. Many shots that are often given, like most vaccinations, are administered in the arm. However, certain antibiotics are injected into the back or buttocks. Ask the doctor or nurse in advance where the injection will be given and prepare that spot.
Step 2. Stroke the skin and apply pressure near the injection site
Once you know where the injection will be given, pat the skin and apply pressure close to where the needle will enter your skin. This prepares your body for the extra pressure of a needle in that spot, and the shock of the injection will be less harsh when you visit the doctor. Do this shortly before you set out for your appointment, or in the car or bus on the way there.
You can also keep an ice cube on the injection site for three minutes or more before receiving your injection, or ask your doctor for anesthetic cream, or use it at home
Step 3. Start preparing in the waiting room
While sitting in the waiting room, certain activities can help you prepare for your injection and distract you from the pain you may feel.
- Squeeze a stress ball. This will loosen your muscles in preparation for the injection.
- Listen to music, podcasts or audiobooks. The doctor probably won't allow you to wear your headphones during the appointment, but you can distract yourself by listening to music beforehand so you're not too scared when you step into the treatment room.
- Read a magazine or a book. If reading works better than listening to distract yourself, then a good story or article can also help you while you wait for your appointment.
Part 2 of 3: Getting the injection
Step 1. Turn your attention elsewhere
You will often feel the pain more strongly because of the expectations you have in advance and because you are aware that you are getting a shot. Focus your attention elsewhere while receiving the shot to minimize the pain of the injection.
- Pretend you're somewhere else. Imagine you are on vacation in the place of your dreams and you are sunbathing, or pretend you are having a cup of coffee with a friend. Make sure you have some scenarios in mind beforehand that make you feel good and then let your imagination run wild.
- Concentrate on another body part. Imagine the injection being given in a different place. You will then expect the pain to be in a different place and thus be distracted from the actual injection.
- Say a poem or song lyrics. If you happen to have a lyric stuck in your head, now is a good time to recite that lyric. You will focus your energy and attention on remembering certain verses and words rather than on what is happening now.
- If you have a chatty doctor or nurse, talk to him or her before or during the injection to provide a welcome distraction. It doesn't matter what you talk about. You can distract yourself just by listening to the other person.
Step 2. Do not look at the needle
Because you expect something to hurt, that pain will actually be more intense. Recent scientific studies have provided empirical evidence that if you can't see the needle during an injection, the injection is less painful. So don't look at the needle when you get a shot. Close your eyes or look the other way.
Step 3. Hold your breath
Hold your breath for a few seconds before and during the injection. This will lower your blood pressure, which in turn makes your nervous system less sensitive. The pain will only decrease slightly, but using other techniques in addition to holding your breath can help to really reduce the pain.
Step 4. Normalize the fear
The stigma surrounding your fear and your own pricking fear can cause you to focus too much on the injection. In fact, it is quite normal to be afraid of needles. Knowing that you are not alone and that this fear is normal can help you relax during the process.
Step 5. Don't tense your muscles
Tightening your muscles can make the pain worse, especially when the injection is given into your muscle tissue. So make sure your muscles are relaxed. It's normal to feel tense when you're scared, so certain techniques can help.
- Do breathing exercises, such as taking a deep breath, holding your breath for 10 seconds, and then exhaling. It helps if you do this exercise shortly before the injection.
- Think 'I'm getting an injection' instead of 'This won't hurt'. The first thought helps you accept what is inevitable, allowing you to relax your body instead of tensing your muscles because you are afraid.
Step 6. Talk to the nurse about your fear
Discuss your fear of the injection with the nurse in advance. Medical professionals are more than willing to help patients who need help.
- The nurse may apply a topical numbing cream to your arm to numb your skin and make the injection less painful. Ask the nurse for this medicine before your appointment, because it takes up to an hour for the cream to work.
- Nurses are also good at distracting patients and letting them relax. If you tell them in advance that you are afraid, the nurse may be able to help you stay calm using relaxation techniques.
Part 3 of 3: Taking care of the injected spot afterwards
Step 1. Place a warm washcloth on the injection site
Sometimes patients experience discomfort from the injection site the next day or even a few hours after the injection. If so, run warm water over a washcloth, then place the washcloth over the injection site. This should ease the pain and provide immediate relief.
Step 2. Massage or rub the area
This helps to disperse the administered medicine and loosen your muscles.
There are two exceptions to this rule. If you have been given heparin or clexane, you should not massage the area afterwards. This can cause more pain, as well as bruising
Step 3. Take ibuprofen or acetaminophen
Pain after an injection is mainly caused by inflammation. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain relievers can help relieve pain, swelling, and other discomfort.
Step 4. Use the part of the body where you received the shot
It can be tempting to slow down and let the spot rest, but sometimes this just makes the spot hurt more. By continuing to move the body part, you can stimulate circulation and ensure that the spot heals faster. This is especially true if you received the injection in your arm.
- Do not think too much about the injection beforehand. In the days leading up to your appointment, make sure you keep yourself busy distracting yourself from your fears. If you go to your appointment with built-up anxiety, you are more likely to tense your muscles and cause the injection to hurt unnecessarily.
- Try to relax before you get the shot. Take a deep breath while sitting in the waiting room, listen to music, or squeeze a stress ball.
- If you receive the injection in your arm, try to shake or move your arm beforehand to loosen your muscles.
- Hold your breath and let the doctor or nurse count down. When the other person has finished counting, exhale.
- Hold someone else's hand if you have taken someone with you.
- Talk to someone (perhaps your parents) about the injection. You'll probably wonder how this will help you, but if you do, you'll be less likely to panic when you get the shot. Parents and friends are very good at reassuring you.
- Try not to think about it too much. Distract yourself and/or look at something else when you get the shot.
- Don't talk about the previous injections you've had. You can get so excited about this that you panic. However, for some people it is easier to think about previous injections, how they forgot about them after a day or even an hour and how this didn't mean much at all afterwards. This differs per person.
- If an injection site hurts for more than 48 hours, or if you experience fever, chills, or dizziness, talk to your doctor. You may have a reaction that requires medical treatment.