Ways of making injections as painless as possible may seem to be a strange thing for a needle exchange worker to be trying to find. After all if an injection is painful then the person is less likely to inject, right…. no, just think of the number of injectors that come into needle exchanges who are afraid to get their vaccinations because it means being injected.
As I’ve already mentioned, I come across large numbers of people who inject inject that are afraid to get vaccinations or blood tests because they are afraid of injections, yes they inject themselves 4 times a day, but that’s when heroin (insert other drug of choice if required) is involved. Never dismiss the call of the poppy. So being able to reduce injecting pain is an important skill for nurses delivering vaccination and testing services.
Another one though is people who are injected by others. In some cases this may just be the fear of it hurting more when they self inject. So helping then reduce this fear is an important part of teaching them to do it themselves (this reduces risk of injury, abscess, and long prison stays for the person who normally injects them).
Finally I’ve met some very big, burly, steroid injectors who won’t inject in the thigh because it hurts too much (thigh injecting is slightly more painful than glute injecting).
Method 1: Pinching the skin before injecting. This can reduce any pain to just a very slight sting. The same effect can be gained by pressing for a short time on the are to be injected. This is caused by ‘pressure anaesthesia’, and is commonly used by dentists before they give you a local.
Method 2: Coughing. German researchers have discovered that coughing during an injection can lessen the pain of the needle. According to Taras Usichenko, author of a study on the phenomenon, the trick causes a sudden, temporary rise in pressure in the chest and spinal canal, inhibiting the pain conducting structures of the spinal cord.
Method 1, Jim Rose: Snake Oil . A great book on how to perform cons and sideshow magic.
Method 2, Mechanisms of “Cough-Trick” for Pain Relief during Venipuncture: An Experimental Crossover Investigation in Healthy Volunteers
Nigel Brunsdon is the owner of Injecting Advice. He’s been working in harm reduction since the 1990’s, previously a frontline needle programme worker he now splits his time between photography and developing online resources for drugs workers and users.