Ten Tips To Help Reduce the Pain of Finger Pricks
Last updated: April 2023
Testing regularly can get painful pretty quickly. It can also lead to developing calloused fingers and scar tissue.
10 tips to reduce finger prick pain
In order for us to avoid some of these problems, we should consider the following tips:
Use soap and water instead of alcohol swabs
Soap and water is just as effective at reducing the risk for infection as alcohol without the drying effects of alcohol on skin, especially during the coming winter months. Dry skin is more sensitive, and more prone to infection. Always wash your hands.
Test on the sides of fingers
The pads of our fingers have the most nerve endings in order to better feel and touch – they are therefore going to hurt the most. The sides of our fingers have less nerve endings, and will produce just as accurate blood glucose readings, with less pain.
Rotate testing site regularly
Many folks stick to a few favorite fingers to test. This might seem convenient but it ends up as a painful choice because it lessens the time a testing site has to heal. Testing on the same fingers over and over increases the risk for infection, keeps them inflamed, and increases callus formation and scar tissue. Test on a different finger every day, and use all 10 fingers.
Make a hand map
Draw an outline of your hand on a piece of paper, and keep track of where you had a finger prick by coloring dots on the respective fingers. This way, it’ll be easier to remember which fingers to rotate, and allow time for healing.
Alternative site testing
Many glucose meters now allow for alternative site testing – where you can test on your palm or forearm. While these sites are not ideal for when we suspect we have hypoglycemia, they make a fine alternative for every day testing and give our fingers a break.
Lower setting on lancing device
With today’s glucose meters, we just need a LITTLE blood. A tiny drop will do. We can get a tiny blood drop from a lower setting, so there’s no need to keep the lancing device at its maximum – where it makes its deepest puncture. A lancing device kept at 2 or 3 on the setting dial is just as effective.
Use a finer gauge needle
In the world of needles, the larger the gauge means the smaller the needle. Most lancing devices use a needle gauge of 28. Some lancing devices use finer gauge needles, such as the OneTouch Delica (33), or the Accu-Check Multiclix (30). The Multiclix has the added advantage of using a ‘drum’ of lancets, so that one just has to twist the lancing device to change to a fresh needle.
Use "numbing" alcohol
There are alcohol swabs out there that have a numbing agent for those who have to inject. Just rub it on the site, and wait a few seconds, and you won’t feel a thing. Just don’t lick your finger after you’ve used them. Your tongue will go numb.
Change lancet daily
This is one of the most difficult chores for a person with diabetes. We get in a routine, and we don’t change those lancets regularly. It can be especially annoying if we’re testing away from home, or by our bedside. Here’s why it’s important:
- A lancing needle has a special coating on it to help minimize pain. That coating is meant to last only ONE usage and it doesn’t survive being cleaned with alcohol;
- A lancing needle is of a super fine gauge in order to also help minimize pain. With each use, a lancing needle becomes duller and duller;
- A lancing needle that is reused may grow bacteria from our biological tissues and fluids deposited on its tip and raise our risk for infection and inflammation, and therefore pain;
- The tip of a lancing needle that is reused may break off inside our skin and cause infection, inflammation, and may even lead to gangrene and amputation.
Test more meaningfully
By testing more meaningfully and in pairs – with the intention of learning what our bodies are doing, before and after meals, at bedtime and rising, or when we feel sick – we reduce the amount of times that we test, and needlessly prick our fingers, while getting more productive information and insight for our diabetes management.
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