A syringe being pushed into a ball of yarn. A string of yarn coming from the ball makes a profile of a woman's face in distress

Inject Me Tenderly

Storytime: I have osteoarthritis.

The end.

 
Just kidding!

I have relatively severe osteoarthritis and take medications to combat further deterioration. I started with a couple of different pills but experienced severe side effects. The next medication was an intramuscular injection given by a technician.

Getting an intramuscular injection for the first time

The first time I went for this injection, the technician walked me through the medication, possible side effects, and the whole shebang. He then prepped my muscle for the injection. The area he meant to inject was behind my arm and I couldn’t quite see properly. “Okay, here we go.” I don’t know what I looked like but, for the first time in eight years, he hesitated and tried to soothe me. Apparently, I looked completely panicked. Something he had never seen from me.

A strong dislike for needles and injections

There are two things you should know about me: I am a control freak and I hate (read: strongly dislike) needles. So, you can guess, when I found out I would have to, routinely, go through blood draws, IVs, and a host of injectable medications for my rheumatoid arthritis, I was horrified.

Adding insult to injury most of these would have to be done by other people.

A preference for self-injections

I strongly dislike injections and given my control issues, if I have to undergo being stabbed by needles, I better do it to myself! And, I don’t mean with one of those nifty auto-injectors, either. I need full control to draw the medication and stick myself. Those nifty auto-injectors FREAK ME OUT that translate into stress and more pain.

Methotrexate injections were challenging to adjust to

I can get over the blood draws and IV infusions because those are monthly, but the injection that really gets me is the weekly methotrexate. I’m not sure why, but it’s a relatively painful process and I have developed a psychosomatic reaction to the alcohol swab (I get nauseous). I sometimes get bruising but there doesn’t seem to be a pattern with that.

5 ways that I manage methotrexate self-injections

I have been on MTX for almost 10 years now and have come up with some techniques that make injecting myself just a little easier. I think some of these are placebos but they work for me!

1. Hydrate

Starting about four hours before I inject, I drink more water. When I am better hydrated, the needle goes in more easily and less painfully. In addition, the medication will absorb into the body faster and sting less under my skin.

2. Stay warm

I feel quite a bit of resistance to the needle when I’m cold. I have to push harder and it is more painful because I’m more sensitive to the needle/medication.

3. Showertime exfoliation

Over the years, I’ve developed skin sensitivities (like prickly feelings and itchiness). I find that using an exfoliating scrub on the area during my shower that day soothes my skin which later, in turn, makes the needle jab a little easier.

4. Moisturize

I feel like my skin is more responsive to the needle when it is well-moisturized. There is less resistance and the jab is more seamless.

5. Don’t hesitate. Go quickly

The longer I sit and muse over the injection, the harder it gets. My hand starts to shake and, on more than one occasion, I have stuck myself but immediately drawn the needle back out. Ouch!

When I don’t hesitate or think, I don’t hype myself up and barely feel the needle! I tell myself ‘just do it’ (gently, of course). If I find myself overreacting, I take a breath, focus on something else like my cats, and just inject!

Do you self-inject? What methods do you use to make the process easier?

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