Self-Injecting tips from People with Multiple Sclerosis

There are things that you can do to ease the pain...

For most of us, starting our multiple sclerosis (MS) medication is the first time that we have tried to inject ourselves. Although more options exist, the older CRAB (Copaxone, Rebif, Avonex, Betaseron) medications are still "first-line," meaning that most of us who are prescribed MS drugs will find ourselves having to inject. While the drug companies make it look easy (and almost fun) in their materials, it is not.

I asked people to share their tips for getting through “the stick.” Here is what they said:

  • Without a doubt the Avonex Pen is one of the best things invented. I used to have so much anxiety prior to the injection. However, using the pen it has made everything easier and anxiety-free. I do take ibuprofen 1 hour before the injection so that I don't wake up in the middle of the night with a headache.
  • I've been on Copaxone for a year and use an autoinject device. So far I have had no problems. I have no special techniques to share except that I usually have the TV on when I inject, so even if I have some discomfort my mind goes back to the TV and I soon forget about any pain.
  • A year after my diagnosis, I was paired with a "Rebif Buddy" by the drug co. She told me about "EMLA" a non-Rx cream that numbs the skin. Used at least 1 hour before doing my shot, it helped greatly. As terrific as my neurologist is, he never mentioned it. Don't forget to cover the area with plastic wrap and tape or clean bandage (Tegraderm is best).
  • Believe it or not, HEATING the site prior to injection helps.
  • Been doing copaxone shot for so long its routine along with brushing my teeth. If itching or redness occurs after my injection, I use a cold compress or ice. I rotate between thighs, abdomen and hips.
  • I usually inject my Avonex by doing a ritual of setting out my supplies on a small towel. One step at a time and not rushing through anything. I also hold my syringe under my arm to warm it while I have the ice-gel pack on my thigh to chill it. I also start by finding a spot on my thigh that is somewhat numb and then I start to inject. I start slowly and stay slow and easy. Makes it easier for me. I too was a needle-phobe and before I was diagnosed with MS, I had never had a needle in my body except for my butt cheek when I was a kid for strep shots. I still hate needles but would rather be able to walk. I say just don't rush your shot. Designate time to give the shots and don't rush yourself.
  • For me first the autoject, and now Betaseron has come up with the Betaject. I couldn't live without it. It hides the needle and you don't have to worry about breaking the skin, which was always so hard for me to do. Worth anything.
  • I have been on Avonex for almost 3 years now. My husband did all my shots until 2 weeks ago but thanks to the folks at Avonex, their creation of the new "pen" now allows me to give it to myself. It is wonderful. I hope everyone taking Avonex switches over to it soon.
  • I find that holding the syringe in my armpit for a few minutes helps a lot. It seems only natural that the serum should be at body temperature. Much easier that fooling with a warm compress that cools so quickly.
  • My Avonex gives me fever and locks my muscles tight, often causing a migrane. So on shot night I take ibuprofen, baclofen, and melatonin.
  • I find if I use a heat pack after a shower, the warmer the skin the less it hurts! This is followed by ice, and if it was really bad, I add a glass of wine to congratulate myself and persuade myself that I can do it again on my next meds day!
  • I inject my Copaxone each night as I climb into bed. After the syringe empties, I wipe site with a clean cotton ball and immediately hold a cold compress on the site, usually tucking my pajamas in around it so it stays on the site until I wake up later in the night, or sometimes even the morning!
  • I take Copaxone, so I have to do an injection every day. I have a specific location for each day of the week, eg. Monday is abdomen etc. I have everything I need right there next to me. I pinch the skin after rubbing with alcohol swab and then just put it right in without thinking about it. This method is easy and usually painless.
  • Well, sometimes I make shot night "shot night" with a little glass of wine...I don't normally drink alcohol but this is a bit relaxing and sort of something to look forward to. OR, I take a hot shower at night, before my shot, and then my skin is a little less resistant to the needle and I'm a little more relaxed...whatever works, I suppose!
  • I also make it 'shot night' with a shot of tequila and an ice pack, which works wonders. I'm on Avonex for 6 years and can do it while on the phone, watching TV and on the computer. It gets easier and easier as the years go on, and my MS has not progressed the last 6 years!

Bottom line: Eventually, the vast majority of us find a way to make our injections bearable. Hopefully, some of the tips above can help you ease the pain of injecting, or take a look at some of the articles below.

Read more about self-injection tips: 

Continue Reading