10 Tips For Reducing Finger Prick Pain

Dude, pricking your finger is a pain, literally. I've gathered some simple tricks from experts in diabetes care to help you not feel like a voodoo doll.

1. Prick the Sides of Your Fingers
I was taught this trick by the nurses in the ICU. The pads of your fingers have the most nerve endings in order to have a better sense of touch, thus causing more pain. The sides of your fingers have less nerve endings and work just as well for glucose readings. 

2. Switch Fingers Regularly
Diabetics tend to have their favorite fingers for poking, but this never lets them heal! Testing on the
same few fingers increases the risk for soreness and infection. Over time, calluses and scar tissue can form, which may make it more difficult and painful to obtain a blood sample. God gave us 10 fingers, so lets use all of them!

3. Use Soap And Water - Not Alcohol
I was taught from the beginning to never use alcohol swabs before testing because they could give an inaccurate reading, but they can also cause more pain. According to certified diabetes educator,
Hector Verastigui, "We don’t recommend wiping the skin with alcohol because [it] is an astringent, which tightens the skin and makes obtaining a blood sample more difficult."

4. Find Your Ideal Gauge Size
Just like syringe needles, lancets come with different size gauges. The higher the gauge, the finer the lancet needle will be, which will cause less pain. Most lancing devices are a 28, but others, like Winston (my OneTouch Ultra2) uses a 33. 

5. Use A New Lancet Each Time
Most people hate having to change the lancet every time - I get it. However, lancets have a special coating on them to help minimize pain which is only good for ONE use. A lancet is a very fine, sharp needle, but with each use it becomes more dull. It can also grow bacteria after using and increase your chance of infection. From personal experience, I can't get enough blood for my test strip after using an old lancet, which causes me to prick my finger a 2nd time. (No, bueno).

6. Warm Up Your Finger Tips
Since we already need to have clean hands, I suggest just using warm water and knock out 2 steps at once. Warm water will help get the blood to flow to your fingers and cause less pain when using your lancet. If you don't have access to warm water, try sitting on your hands or rubbing them together.

7. Adjust Your Lancet Depth Number
My lancet range is 1-7 (seven giving the deepest puncture). I generally use 4. Luckily, modern glucometers only require a small drop of blood for testing, so having your lancet set to a lower puncture setting (2-4) may work for you. You may notice some fingers have tougher skin or calluses which may need a higher depth number. 

8. Consider An Alternative Site
Some glucometers allow for different sites for testing (palm, forearm) that can give our fingers a mini vacation.

9. Don't Squeeze Blood From Finger Tips
I'm definitely guilty of this one. I frequently squeeze in order to get a decent drop of blood for my test strips. I hate seeing the dreaded "Error 5" message pop up on Winston. However, this can bruise or cause soreness around the puncture site. Try hanging your hand below the waist for 5 seconds to get the blood to flow towards your finger. You can also gentle squeeze the base of your finger (near your hand) and move towards the middle of your finger. 

10. Experiment
With time you'll figure out your "sweet spots" or favorite fingers to use (but don't favor them too much)! Create a hand map or a memorable "Poke Pattern" so you don't reuse the same fingers over and over. Work with a diabetes educator to figure out site alternatives that work best for you during regular checks (not during hypoglycemia checks). Try out a few different glucometers to find one that works best for you! I highly recommend a Winston for you (OneTouch Ultra2)! If you are still experiencing lots of pain, you could try an alcohol swab with benzocaine (like these)! to help numb the area and reduce pain.

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