For my diabetes, I take at least five injections a day. I've learned a lot about how to make taking insulin as pleasant as possible.
Fear of Needles
Many people are afraid of needles, until they become diabetic—and then they get used to it. Still, needles are unpleasant and can sometimes hurt. I know I certainly get tired of them every now and then.
I've been taking insulin for a couple of years now. I take at least five injections a day, and I've learned a lot about how to make it as pleasant and easy as possible. Because of my experience, I decided to write an article with some tips to help others who also take insulin on a regular basis.
1. Test the Area First
When you have to take insulin every day, especially when you have to take multiple shots every day, you are going to get sores on your stomach. You're going to bleed and get bruises that sometimes take days to heal. Parts of your stomach might swell or become tender.
Before committing to injecting yourself in a certain spot for sure, you can try inserting the needle just a tiny bit to see how the area responds to it. If there's a lot of pain, then it will just hurt even more if you insert the needle the entire way, so you should move to another spot that won't hurt as bad or won't hurt at all.
Ideally, you want the majority of your insulin injections not to hurt. This may sound impossible if you've never injected yourself with a needle on a regular basis, but if you do things right, this should be the case the majority of the time.
You can't completely avoid pain and there are going to be injections that are very painful sometimes, but if you follow this rule and the others in this article, most of your injections should be painless.
2. Put the Needle in Straight
When you accidentally push the needle in downwards instead of straight into your stomach, it causes you more pain. It may be scary at first to put the needle straight in. I used to always be afraid that somehow I would puncture my intestines, but the skin and fat surrounding those are actually very thick. The needle isn't long enough to puncture anything. It's pushing downwards instead of straight in that can cause you more damage by causing more bruises and bleeding.
3. Change Needles More Often
It's easy to get lazy and not want to change your needle every time you have to give yourself an injection, especially if you are like me and need multiple injections a day. I know some people may find this gross, but really, it's easy to justify not changing your needles sometimes because you're the only person using the needles.
Changing needles has more of a benefit than just being cleaner, though. The needles get duller every time you use them and the duller they are, the more they hurt. You want to puncture your skin with a needle that's as sharp as possible.
4. Insert Needles Slowly
I used to shove my needles into my stomach quickly, thinking it was like a bandaid. The quicker I shoved it in, the quicker the pain would be over.
Needles are not like bandaids. Often a gentler hand, one that is more careful about how it is inserting the needle, will be painless, while a quicker hand will cause a lot of pain.
This is because, if you enter it slowly, you can kind of feel the way your stomach wants you to insert the needle and it's easier to hold it straight. When you go quickly, you have to use a ton of pressure and you're forcing the needle in, instead of letting it glide gently into you.
5. Rotate Injection Sites
Don't inject yourself in the same area over and over again. It can be tempting because sometimes you find a good spot where the needle just slides in and is fairly painless, so you get tempted to use it repeatedly. Doing so will eventually make the area so tender that it hurts all the time. You can get horrible bruises, bleeding, and the injections will be very painful.
It's good to consciously switch areas on your stomach that you inject yourself with every time you give yourself an injection, if possible. You need to let each area you inject yourself heal as much as possible before using it again.
6. See if You Qualify for Insulin Pens Rather Than Vials
I've never had to use vials and don't envy people that do. Using a pen is superior because you don't have to refrigerate the insulin after opening it, which makes it more portable. It's easier to transfer, easier to measure the insulin, and easier to change the needles.
7. Watch or Listen to Something While You Inject
I always find that watching or listening to something while doing something unpleasant, not only relaxes me, making the activity easier, but also distracts me enough from what I am doing for it not to bother me as much.
8. Choose a Stable Area Where Animals and People Can't Knock Into You
Nothing is worse than when someone pushes past you or a dog knocks its body against your chair, which causes your arm to shake a bit and twist the needle around inside your stomach. It hurts to be moved when you're trying to take insulin.
Try to predict these problems ahead of time and put yourself in an area in the room with the least amount of traffic, so people won't run into you. Warn people that you're taking your insulin shot and not to brush past you until you are finished (if you are at home and not in a public place.)
9. Take Injections in Private
Unfortunately, most people are sheltered from the realities of most medical conditions, so if you take insulin in public, someone might confront you and think you're taking an illegal drug or call you disgusting for injecting yourself in public. If possible, use a public restroom or any private area you can find to inject yourself with insulin before eating. This way you don't have to deal with people's bad attitudes while you try to eat, so your insulin doesn't drop too low because you just took your medicine.
10. Show Off to the Right People
The good news is that with the right people, you don't have to hide your insulin injections. They know you, your medical conditions, your struggles, and your treatments. It's a bit embarrassing to show your stomach to people sometimes and take insulin shots in front of them, but with the right people, it's okay.
They will likely tell you they admire you for being able to inject yourself with needles on a regular basis, since most people are terrified of doing this. Because taking care of diabetes is so hard, it can be nice to have people praising you every once in a while. It can make the process of taking insulin easier because those little pinpricks and bruises on your stomach will seem more like battle scars.
You fight this disease every day. A lot of people actually are not strong enough to take insulin like you do. It's okay to praise yourself for being strong every once in a while.
Bonus Tip: Use an Insulin Pump
If you're lucky enough, you can use an insulin pump, (as demonstrated in the video above) but most people's insurances do not cover insulin pumps. Insulin pumps prevent you from having to insert needles into your stomach multiple times a day, they are easy to use in public, even in front of people, and easy to carry around with you.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Questions & Answers
Question: Do I still need to inject long term insulin when I use a pump?
Answer: You should follow the directions of your doctor. If he didn't prescribe you long term insulin, then no, you do not.
© 2017 EB Black
Dianemae on June 11, 2017:
Good article. My husband has to take insulin. I'm only pill therapy, but I test my blood. Many of your experiences are good for others to hear and understand, they are not alone. Thanks for writing.