Tips on Battling Needle Fatigue

Who ever thought we’d be injecting ourselves with medication for some strange disease called Multiple Sclerosis? Growing up, no one thinks about illness or medication or autoimmune diseases. Girls think about skipping rope, studying for exams and the intricacies of dating. We never dreamed we’d have to make decisions about what drug we’d need to take to help us live a better quality of life.

But the day arrives. Diagnosis day. After that, decision day.

Needle Fatigue

I’ve been injecting myself with a needle for the past 17 years. Like many of us, I was terrified at the prospect of having to stick that sharp silver thing into my skin. I was afraid it would hurt, or I might do it incorrectly. I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to stick (no pun intended) to a daily ritual of shoving that shiny piece of metal into my body.

So what did we do? We worried a little, complained a bit, researched a lot, and worried some more. When we were through, we all came to the same realization: we had to just do it (my apologies to Nike!)

We scheduled a lesson from a nurse who demonstrated how to inject. We did it ourselves for the first time in front of her. It ended up not seeming so bad. For the time being.

Pain, soreness, and shortness of breath – these were some of the side effects we experienced. We endured it because we knew we had to.

There are days we simply don’t feel like injecting. We’re too tired, too sick or simply don’t feel like it. 

When I feel that way, I’m reminded of something brilliant a dear friend of mine once said to me. She said whenever she was tired of injecting, she’d think to herself that each shot brought her a step closer toward wellness.

Powerful.

So here are some tips for those of you who find yourself battling needle fatigue. Let me know if they help, or share with us your own tips:

  • Create a schedule – Most people make their injection part of their daily routine. Whether you inject morning, noon or night, the time you inject should become a regular part of your day. I inject at night. I wash my face, brush my teeth and do my shot. It’s what is most comfortable for me. I’ve experimented with different times of the day, and I find nighttime works best for me. What time of day is the best time for you to do your shot?
  • Make a comfortable space for yourself – Wherever you store your shots is most likely the best place to do your shots. I store mine in my bathroom cabinet. It’s a comfortable place for me to inject. If you find another room in the house works best for you, then use that room.
  • Play your favorite music, video or television show while you inject.  This may help to calm your nerves, and set the stage for you. I’ve gone from playing my favorite tunes to (this may sound ridiculous, but it works) listening to the hysterical videos of Don Rickles roasting anyone and everyone. Find what works best for you, and stick with it. It’ll make injection time a little easier for you.
  • Speak with someone – Communicating your feelings to someone you trust is always helpful. Whether it’s a spouse, friend, therapist, MS specialist or Peer Resources offered by the pharmaceutical companies, talking over your issues about needle fatigue is crucial. Reach out to others for help.
  • Social MediaMultipleSclerosis.net is here to help. We are a group of people who are also living with MS, and we want to help. Reach out to us, either on this website or on our Facebook page. Post your questions, and we will give you the best answers possible.

Remember, you are not alone in your MS journey. We stand together in this fight against MS.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MultipleSclerosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (23)
  • itasara
    3 years ago

    I was reading another article and came across this one about needle fatigue. I have been on Copaxone since diagnosis For 10 years.My MS symptoms have been minimal compared to stories of other MS patients I have read. You would think that having been trained as a nurse I would have no problem with this, but not the case when it came to myself. So I have been using the injector which probably is a little bit more forceful a method but the best psychologically for me. Recently within the last several months or more the needle itself had become a little more painful on entry. I have gotten older, the fatty tissue below the outer skin layer has decreased and I also have lost weight over the last several years so my arms are quite thin.After speaking with the nurse at Shared Solutions I started using a warm compress five minutes before the injection and sometimes a cold compress following it. This does help. I thought this would be good to mention to some posters here who take Copaxone. Shared solutions does supply the compresses if you call them. I also noticed one day as I was looking in the mirror, lines of skin atrophy going down my thighs. So now I’m trying to avoid those spots which after 10 years is very difficult. When I was taking Copaxone every day it made the schedule easy to comply for me, I would inject after I went downstairs every day. After receiving, (finally! another story,) the three times per week Copaxone, I was able to use my arms which are the worst for me pain-wise less often as can rotate arms and worked it out so I don’t have to use either arm every week. (In the beginning it took a while to work out the schedule with three times a week and now I have a workable schedule.) I always used the calendar to check on the areas in this box was in the areas,but I do especially have to rely on the calendar to make sure I have the right spot on the right day. My phone lets me know when I am supposed to take it, but even so I sometimes stay upstairs longer or get busy doing something, like today when I was reading this article, and I realized it was after 6 o’clock pm and I had forgotten to inject! It doesn’t happen often that I do inject later than usual, but it seems to happen more now than when I was taking it every day. I would love to go on the pills however my doctor and I agree as long as I am doing well there there is no reason to change. Also I chose Copaxone specifically along with my doctor because It usually has no side effects -no flu symptoms -and I preferred injections over not feeling well due to side effects.

  • gparado
    3 years ago

    I just came across this article while perusing the articles in this forum. I’m relatively new to taking medications for MS. I was diagnosed in November 2015 and started taking weekly injections of Avonex, first with regular needles, then with the autopen, and now back to the regular needle.

    When I was using the autopen, I found myself hesitating over pushing the button. Most of the time it’s been painless, but once I had a strange reaction that made my leg pulsate under the injection site. The injection hurt slightly, but I was more unnerved by the sensation of “feeling” the medication entering my leg. Ever since that time, I pause when I go to push the button. At times, when I finally decided to push the button, I find that the button won’t depress enough to inject. The process can end up taking about 30 minutes.

    Due to my difficulties with the autopen, I’ve decided to return to using regular needles. I guess it’s control over knowing when the needle will actually be puncturing my skin.

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    3 years ago

    From what you are telling me you did the right thing by switching since you had hesitation about pushing the button. Go with your instincts and do what you feel most comfortable with. Good for you. I hope this works from you here on out!

  • Pam
    5 years ago

    hi, Cathy. I’m new to this site, but all of the articles I’ve read have hit home. this one especially. I have always hated shots. could never understand people who got tattoos. too many needles, or “noodles” as my grandkids call them. and now i’m on Avonex. once a week. I use the pen now, but started out on the needle. thank goodness for my husband. I still cannot do it myself. and he’s changed plans, altered his life to fit my once a week date. on the day of the shot, my nerves get short. my patience is thin. very anxious. and i’m sure my bp is real high. the injection it self is almost always painless. and no lingering pains. but I do get the flu-like symptoms often. and the avonex hangover. headache the next day.. you know that feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop? when will my symptoms get worse? will they get worse? is there a chair in my future? don’t think there are any answers for these questions. but, by doing the injection, i’m at least fighting back. thanks for writing your article. I am not alone!:)

  • DianeD
    5 years ago

    Cathy, about the discomfort…

    The 1st time I injected, over three years ago, it hurt like getting a bee sting and the pain lasted a long time. I used the autoject then, but now I just inject. I think the ease or conversely, the unease, of injection depends on the condition of skin. I have cellulite and I also have a lot of small veins which makes it less comfortable. My arms are completely out; they get huge welts which last a long time plus the are remains painful. I think it’s hard to decide how deep is optimal also. I know there are recommendations, but every person is different. I’m going to talk to my neuro about stopping Copaxone, I’m very tired of injecting and I don’t seem better or even stable. Feel worse.

  • Beth
    5 years ago

    Thanks for sharing this, I have just started my treatment of Avonex 3 weeks ago. This is exactly how I am feeling, know I have to but hate doing it. This is all so new to me, thanks for the tips on how to make injection time alittle more comfortable.

  • kimber
    6 years ago

    Thank you all very much. This article is very timely for me. I was just diagnosed May 9, 2013. I am very nervous about needles. I start my treatments of copaxone within 1 week. Please keep me in your prayers. But thanks once again to my new ms family. I love all the suggestions and articles. please keep writing because you are truly helping and blessing me!

    Kim

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    5 years ago

    You are most welcome, Kim, and I wish all good luck to you. Healing prayers are being sent your way. I wish the best of luck with you and your Copaxone and hope you do well with injecting. Remember to breathe and go easy on yourself.

    Best to you always,
    Cathy

  • cat
    5 years ago

    Kim, I’ve been using Copaxone since 2001. I was terrified at the thought of sticking a needle in myself. Thank goodness for AutoInject. For me, just not having to actually inject the needle myself – or have to see it going in – makes a world of difference. If you don’t have one already just ask your doctor and he’ll prescribe one for you.

    I am really hoping to start oral medication one of these days. I’ve been doing my shots even before the needles came pre-filled and I would love to just be able to “pop a pill”.

    Good luck and take good care of yourself 🙂

  • Jackie
    6 years ago

    Thanks for the suggestions. I’ve been injecting Betaseron for about seven years and have been less than great about giving myself a shot in the last year or so. I’m trying to do better because I remind myself that I’m doing relatively well and want to stay that way. I have also come to the realization that just as importantly it’s selfish of me not to do my shots. I know I am very blessed to have family and friends who will support me whatever course my MS takes, but I want to be as independent as I can be for as long as I can and not be a burden to anyone just because I was too lazy or wasn’t in the mood to feel like a human pin cushion.

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    6 years ago

    Jackie,

    Perhaps you should speak with your doctor about changing to a medication that you’d be more apt to stay with. It’s important to take good care of yourself, so do yourself a favor and consider speaking with him.

    Good luck with whatever you decide, and keep in touch!

    Best~
    Cathy

  • LadyShelli
    6 years ago

    I found this in my site in my email with this adorable story! Thank you Cathy, was a wonderful chuckle to a rough morning!
    I’ve done all the shots I think, and landed with Avonex very happily. I do like the once a week, although remembering to take exactly once a week is a issue. My neuro just turned me on to their auto inject for Avonex. NO PAIN! the needle is tiny compared to the manual one! Blessed be! But I still get the ugly side affects of fever.
    Oh well, I think Im supposed to be grateful here. I do try to think that way *laughs*
    Any idea’s how to make myself a weekly reminder would be appreciated!
    Keep up the positive my darlings! It is all for the GREATER good! Shelli

  • cat
    5 years ago

    There are several good, free reminder apps on the internet. I use ReminderFox which is available through Mozilla FireFox.

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    6 years ago

    What a great attitude you have, Shelli.

    Some ways to help remind you:
    1. Mark the days on a wall calendar
    2. Set reminders on your cell phone. (I use Google Calendar. I mark an event, ask for a reminder, and it is synced to my phone so the reminder beeps at the appropriate time.
    3. Download a free app (you can research which ones are available through iTunes or your phones app). There are many available apps for medicine reminders. Type in the search box what you are looking for.

    Hope this helps! Good luck with it.
    Cathy

  • Tammie
    6 years ago

    Hi Cathy,

    Thank you for your posts, I truly enjoy them and the support they provide. I was diagnosed in May of 2009 and take a daily injection of Copaxone. At first, my dear husband gave them to me when the rotation was in my arms because it was difficult for me to reach the right spot, and he always wanted to be with me for support even when I could do them myself. I use an auto injector which helps immensely and now I just go quietly off to my inject spot in the the evening after dinner and before bed. The spot is actually in one of my favorite locations and where I store my needle paraphanalia. It is in a small cabinet in our sun room by our hottub. It always makes me remember how lucky and blessed I am (even though I rarely use the hot tub any longer because of heat issues). But it still reminds me to be thankful. Then I just get it done as quickly as possible and I keep everything out of site so I don’t think about it any other time. Tammie

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    6 years ago

    Good for you, Tammie! You have a marvelous attitude, and that will go a LONG way toward feeling and being well.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

    Best~
    Cathy

  • Laurie
    6 years ago

    Thank you for this timely article. After 11 years on Avonex my neurologist has had me switch to Betaseron, due to the fact that my MS is getting worse. I managed fairly well injecting once a week, but having to inject every other day is getting to be a real chore. I just don’t wanna! Your suggestions for fighting “needle fatigue” are good ones, and my resolve to continue with therapy is strengthened. Thank you!

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    6 years ago

    You are more than welcome, Laurie. Good luck with the Betaseron. I am sure there are support groups for you for people on your medication. You should contact the pharmaceutical company. Most of them have peer support which I find very helpful. Good luck!

    Cathy

  • Christie Germans
    6 years ago

    When I was on Copaxone, sticking to a schedule worked so well for me. And, I always remembered what my Copaxone nurse said to me, “don’t let the injections take over your life.” With that, I made my routine brief and to the point (no pun intended!). Same place, same time, same materials and never spending more than five minutes on it. My time was right after work and my place was the bedroom, where the sound machine played calming noises. It always chilled me out before injecting. Great article Cathy! Best, Christie

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    6 years ago

    Thanks, Christie. You are right about the sound machine. I use one, too.

    I gather you are no longer on Copaxone. May I ask what you are taking now?

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

    Best always,
    Cathy

  • Christie Germans
    6 years ago

    Hiya Cathy. I switched over to Tysabri due to a new lesion that showed up along my spinal cord, just over a year ago. Strong stuff but last MRI came back the way we wanted: no new lesions! And, I haven’t had a relapse. Hope you’re well. Best, Christie

  • Sonya
    6 years ago

    Cathy,
    Another wonderfully written article, which brings new ideas, & causes us to think about this journey we are on. No one would have chosen this journey, & as you said, no one certainly ever, in their wildest dreams, thought about being here.
    I was diagnosed over 6 years ago, & am on a weekly injection of Avonex.
    Never in a million years, would I have thought, it would be so difficult to inject!! I hate that time every week when I know I have to! I still, suffer from the flu like symptoms, from time to time. While it is a rare occurrence, it does happen.
    I, like you, have ‘learned’ some tricks which work to help me. I too have tried different times of the day, even different days of the week. I have settled on evenings, because; if I am going to experience the side effects, it is best to be ready for bed 😉
    I also inject in the same room of my home.
    I must say MultipleSclerosis.net has been a great help to me. While I have family that I know cares, they don’t truly understand all that is involved in the day to day struggles. I have made new friends here, even though we may never meet, we are in contact & support one another.
    I also have determined if this is the hand that has been dealt me, then I must do whatever is in MY power, to make my life the best it can be. I see my neurologist in July & I plan to speak to her about the new “pen” for injecting…maybe that would make this journey a little less frightening for me on Tuesday evenings 🙂
    Bless you for your continued articles. I always enjoy reading your thoughts & ideas.
    Sonya

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    6 years ago

    Ah, Sonya. You made my heart sing! Thank you for your lovely comments.

    We do have to deal with the hand Life has dealt to us. We ARE warriors, eh?

    I am glad, if we have to be on this journey, that we are on it together!

    We’ll keep fighting the good fight, until they find a cure. May it be in our lifetime. Amen!

    Best to you always. Thanks again.
    Cathy

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