We are committed to maintaining a proactive approach to patient education – and by extension, patient safety. Keep reading below for three common questions patients have about injection treatments.
Why do some injections hurt more than others?
Answer: The two most common types of injections are subcutaneous and intramuscular.
With a subcutaneous injection, the needle is usually thinner and the injection is dispensed just below the surface of the skin – into the subcutaneous layer of tissue. This is the more comfortable injection for the patient.
An intramuscular injection is given in the muscle, which is under the subcutaneous tissue – so a larger, longer needle is needed. By nature, muscles are firmer than tissue. Therefore, in order to dispense the medication or vaccination, more pressure must be applied to ensure the needle has reached the muscle. This means a more uncomfortable injection for the patient.
Why do some injections have a burning sensation?
Answer: There are two simple answers to this question. The first is that a nerve may have been hit during the injection. While this doesn’t generally occur – it is more of a “fluke” – if it happens once, you should by no means expect it to happen again.
The most common reason for a burning sensation during your injection is the specific medication or vaccination you are receiving. There are several medications that are known to “burn.” A few examples:
- Some medications are very acidic and conflict with the natural alkalinity of your body. The increase in pH causes the burning sensation.
- The alcohol used to clean the injection site can be the cause of the burning sensation. You can ask the provider to wait until the alcohol has dried before administering the injection.
- Some medications such as propofol, an anesthetic used for surgery, just cause a burning sensation for no rhyme or reason. Not everyone will experience this.
Is there something I can do before an injection to make it more comfortable?
Answer: Many times, the pain caused from an injection is anxiety. In reality, most injections do not hurt any worse than being pinched (subcutaneous) or getting hit in the arm with volleyball (intramuscular). Neither one of them actually hurt, it’s just the anticipation of knowing you’re getting a shot causes you tense up – especially if you are one of the millions of people who can’t stand the thought of needles.
Below are some tips to help calm yourself before an injection:
- Look away, so you don’t see the needle
- Take slow, deep breaths
- Think of anything to take your mind off what is happening – call it your happy place!
- Try to keep your muscles relaxed as much as possible
- And remember that an injection usually takes less than seven seconds – it’ll be over before you know it!