THURSDAY, May 17, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Averting your eyes when you're receiving a shot really may help reduce discomfort, new research suggests.
The study, published in the May issue of the journal Pain, included volunteers who watched video clips showing a needle pricking a hand or a Q-tip touching the hand, or a hand alone. At the same time, the participants received painful or non-painful electrical sensations to their hand.
The video clips were shown on a screen located just above the participants' hands, giving them the impression that the hand on the screen actually belonged to them, the study authors explained in a journal news release.
The participants reported more intense and unpleasant pain when they saw a needle pricking a hand, compared to when they saw a hand alone. The finding indicates that previous painful experiences with needles boost the level of pain when people watch as they get a shot, the German researchers said.
In addition, patients' expectations about the painfulness of getting a shot influences the actual intensity of pain, the study authors noted.
Clinicians can help by giving patients fair warning, the researchers said.
"Throughout our lives, we repeatedly experience that needles cause pain when pricking our skin, but situational expectations, like information given by the clinician prior to an injection, may also influence how viewing needle pricks affects pain," lead study author Marion Hofle, a doctoral student at the Charite University Hospital Berlin, said in the news release.
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about pain.