Could a genuine smile be the key to getting a less painful vaccination? Researchers at the University of California at Irvine say yes.
This authentic smile, which brings up the corners of the mouth and creates crow’s feet around the eyes, can reduce the pain of a needle injection by up to 40%, and also dull a stressful physiological response associated with the needle by lowering the heart rate, the researchers said.
Surprisingly, a grimace created these same responses as well. A poker face doesn’t.
“When faced with distress or pleasure, humans make remarkably similar facial expressions that involve activating eye muscles, lifting cheeks and baring teeth,” said researcher Sarah Pressman, professor of psychological sciences. .
“We have found that these movements, as opposed to neutral expression, are beneficial in reducing discomfort and stress,” Pressman said in an academic press release.
This is news that people may be able to use right away as the rollout of a two-part COVID-19 vaccine begins this winter.
The study included 231 people who reported their levels of pain, emotion, and distress when injected with saline using a 25-gauge needle, which is the type typically used with a flu shot.
Participants were asked to express a real smile, a fake smile, a grimace or a neutral expression. Those who kept a smile or a grimace told researchers that the shot only hurt half as much as the neutral group.
“Our study demonstrates a simple, free, and clinically meaningful method to make needle injection less horrible,” Pressman said. “Given the many anxiety and pain situations found in medical practice, we hope that understanding how and when to smile and grin will help foster effective pain reduction strategies that will result in better experiences.” for patients.
The results were published online in the journal Emotion.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on COVID-19 vaccine research.
SOURCE: University of California, Irvine, press release, December 1, 2020
By Cara Murez HealthDay reporter