When told they need to move to insulin injections, many people fear the pain associated with needles and often ask 'Do insulin injections hurt?'. Yet the reality is that when insulin therapy is started, most people, including healthcare professionals, are surprised to find how little pain there is when giving injections. In fact, insulin needles are commonly reported to hurt less than the fingertip lancing required for blood glucose checking.
This was supported in a study published in the Canadian Journal of Diabetes where pharmacists assessed the expected and actual pain in an educational training session. Participants rated the actual pain experienced from insulin injections as significantly lower than the pain experienced from that of a fingertip blood sugar (glucose) sample. The study also showed that the anticipated pain of the insulin injections was much greater than the reality.
Today’s needles are smaller
Needle technology has come a long way in recent years. Today’s needles are smaller and finer than ever before, making injections as painless as possible. FIT Forum for Injection Technique has identified that research no longer supports the use of needles longer than 8 mm for most people. Many are able to use needles as short as 4mm.
Tips for more comfortable injections
FIT’s guidelines include the following:
- Before each injection, the site should be inspected and gently massaged. Hair roots, moles, scars or infected areas should be avoided.
- Rotate sites as advised by the diabetes healthcare team.
- A new needle should be used each time.
- Use room temperature insulin.
You should follow the specific recommendations given by your healthcare professional. For example, injections in different parts of the body can affect blood glucose levels.
Different types of insulin therapy
People with diabetes have a choice of options for administering insulin:
- Insulin syringes – combined with smaller and finer needles
- Insulin pens – these combine a fine needle and insulin cartridge in one unit making it easier to use than a syringe and are the most common method of administration in Canada
- Insulin pumps – these don’t use needles and deliver insulin continuously into the skin, day and night
Talk to your diabetes healthcare team together about the type and pattern of injections that will work best for you. Also discuss how you can identify good injection technique and how to examine the injection site for any problems that may affect the action of the insulin.