Scared of taking shots? You are not alone in this. Many people have the fear of the needle. It is estimated that about 10% of the population has needle phobia and tends to avoid taking important injections. But imagine if it didn’t hurt while getting a shot. New research has found a method to make injection a painless process.
“As many as 1 in 10 people experience needle phobia, which may have negative consequences, such as decreasing the rate of vaccinations and blood donation,” said William McKay, lead author of the study.
According to research presented at the Annual Anesthesiology meeting 2014, if pressure and vibrations are applied at the place while taking an injection, it could be painless.
“Our early research suggests that using a device that applies pressure and vibration before the needle stick could help significantly decrease painful sensations by closing the ‘gate’ that sends pain signals to the brain,” says McKay.
The ‘gate’ here refers to the ‘neurological gate’ which decides whether the pain signal in any part of our body should be sent to the brain or not. According to the ‘Gate control theory’ propounded by Melzak and Wall, the pain signals generated at any part of the body, say an injured tissue, cannot reach directly to the brain. They have to first pass the gates at the spinal cord. We can feel the pain only after the gate allows the signals to pass. If for some reason the pain signals are blocked at the gate, we feel less pain or none at all.
Researchers have determined that application of certain specific amount of pressure and vibration at the site before giving an injection significantly decreases the perception of pain. Applying heat gave a small benefit but not a significant one. This happens because the sensations of pressure, vibrations and to some extent temperature, close the gate and the brain does not feel the pain.
There are devices available in the market offering some of these features. However, researchers are hopeful that if all the features tested in the study are incorporated in them, these devices could be made more effective. Other painless alternatives such as micro-needle skin patch, dissolvable micro-needles, laser injections etc. have also been developed. Scientists are also developing a novel capsule coated in needles which, when swallowed, can deliver drugs directly into the lining of the stomach.