It is age-old advice handed down by school nurses to generations of children receiving their regular jabs. Now scientists have found looking away during an injection really does make them less painful. A study in the appropriately titled medical journal Pain found that removing fearful anticipation helped to remove the sting of an injection.

Researchers at the University of Medicine in Berlin and University Medical Centre in Hamburg found that your past experience of needle pricks influences how you react later on.

They asked volunteers to watch video clips showing a hand being pricked by a needle, a hand being touched by a cotton bud and a hand on its own. The screen was positioned so that it looked as if it might be the volunteer’s own hand they were watching. While they viewed the clips, small electrical stimuli were passed through their hand, some painful and others painless. The volunteers reported that they felt the most pain during the clips of a needle pricking a hand compared with the cotton bud or hand-alone clips. This was backed up by the results of monitoring their eyes and watching for pupil dilation – a sign of activity in the nervous system, stimulated by pain. Lead researcher Marion Holfe said the simple advice from a nurse to “look away now” works because it reduces a patient’s expectation about the “strength of forthcoming pain”. – Daily Mail