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The pain of injections can be minimised by looking away while the syringe is going in.
This is according to a study published in the journal Pain and led by Marion Holfe of the research Multisensory Integration group of the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf and the Charite – Universitatsmedizin Berlin.
It revealed the experience of an injection – which is a frequent method to administer drugs or inoculations required through international healthcare programmes – is based upon the recipients' previous experiences of needles and the information they received about the shot.
The study involved showing people film of a needle piercing the skin, the limb being touched by a q-tip or the hand by itself, while concurrently stimulating the participants' own extremities with electrical stimuli at various intensities.
Videos were presented on screens located above the patient's hand, providing them with the illusion that the limb on the display unit was their own.
The pain research subjects felt through the electricity was described as more unpleasant and intense when they viewed the footage of the needle pricking the skin.
Enhanced autonomic nervous system activity paralleled this finding, demonstrating previous painful experiences contribute to the unpleasantness of pain when looking at an injection.
Furthermore, the intensity of the stimulus was affected by situational expectations.
Before the simulations took place, participants were informed that the q-tip or needle-prick footage would be more likely to be associated with painful electrical stimulation, with researchers then discovering the videos linked to pain were said to create a more intense and unpleasant feeling than the other films.
"Throughout our lives, we repeatedly experience that needles cause pain when pricking our skin, but situational expectations, like information given by the clinician prior to an injection, may also influence how viewing needle pricks affects pain," Ms Holfe said.
"We've provided empirical evidence in favour of the common advice not to look at the needle prick when receiving an injection," she added.
Previously, a study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine and led by University of Toronto scientists found warming local anaesthetics can minimise the amount of pain recipients of the shot will receive.
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