How to cope with pain, distress, and anxiety during a medical/lab test

  • February 12, 2021
How to cope with pain, distress, and anxiety during a medical/lab test

Having blood drawn or providing a urine or stool sample may not be a pleasant experience for many of us. Chances are high that you may feel your heart racing, knots in your stomach, or palms sweating. This is normal as many of us suffer from types of phobias like hemophobia (fear of blood) or trypanophobia (fear of needles). Regardless if you experience any of these issues while going for a test, it is one of those necessary evils as they are an important part of the standard and preventive health care, which can provide important information to your healthcare practitioner about how your body is working. Medical tests also help doctors check for certain health conditions and diseases. They can also be used to check the proper functioning of your organs and show the effectiveness of treatments given. Overall, medical tests can help in improving the quality of your life or even save it. Here are some general tips on how to cope with pain, discomfort, and anxiety during the medical/lab test and make the experience less stressful.

Know beforehand why the medical test is being performed.

Dealing with unfamiliar situations is challenging and can be stressful. The same is the case with undergoing an unfamiliar medical procedure. In case you experience a medical procedure that does not match your expectations or if you have had a bad experience, the emotional distress would be increased. So it is always recommended that you should ask your doctor about the reasons for conducting a medical test. One may also inquire about the procedure being followed during the test.  Being proactive may help you improve your attitude and preparation for the test.  Being well prepared may make you feel relaxed and comfortable during the actual situation. There are many questions one can ask their doctors such as:

  • Why does the test need to be done?
  • What are the do’s and don’ts for the medical test (before and after)?
  • What happens during and after the test?
  • What sort of inconvenience is included in the medical procedure?
  • How long would it take for the whole medical procedure and when will the results of the test be available?
  • What is the normal range for the tests, and in case of an abnormal result, how to interpret the same?
  • What factors/aspects may affect the testing results?
  • What course of action should one follow after the test?

Your doctor, nurse, or phlebotomist are the best to help you with these questions. In addition to that, when you order your test from Lab Testing API, you may search for the required test or you may check the lab testing categories available on our website. Each test has its specific test instructions and can be found under the “Testing Info” section of each test.

Communicate your previous experience or needs with the person who is taking the sample.

It is always recommended that you discuss your needs or inform the person handling your collection of any previous bad experiences you have had while undergoing a medical test. Chances are you might have felt light-headed or might have fainted while having your blood drawn.  Providing the health professional responsible for collecting the sample with this information will help you come up with some strategies to use during the procedure and make your testing experience less stressful and more comfortable. Health professionals are trained to understand the needs of anxious, apprehensive patients and can provide the best solutions when approaching collection time.  

Follow some relaxation strategies.

Following some relaxation techniques during the medical/lab test can help you relieve mental tension and help you relax your body.

  • Avert your gaze from the sight of blood. If you feel nauseous during a blood draw, not watching the procedure might solve your problem. If you have trypanophobia or hemophobia, chances are your system overreacts to catching such an unusual sight and may affect the heart rate and blood pressure levels. Thus, it’s always advisable to “avert your gaze” if you are oversensitive to the blood draw process.
  • Listen to music. One may use headphones and listen to music before and during the blood draw to relieve mental tension.
  • Relax. During a blood draw, try to stay relaxed. Focus on taking deep breaths to get relief of mental tension.
  • Talk with the phlebotomist. Chatting with the phlebotomist or medical staff may help distract you and alleviate anxiety. 
  • Don’t move or wiggle during the blood draw. Sit still and try to refrain from moving and wiggling while your phlebotomist is attempting to draw your blood. Chances are, if you keep fiddling/moving, it could add to the number of prods required to draw your blood.
  • Ask the health professional for methods to minimize anxiety. One may ask the doctor for some methods/techniques to minimize anxiety during the testing procedure. In case you suffer from extreme anxiety, he/she may recommend a professional who may help you in making your testing experience more comfortable. Your doctor may also prescribe you some medicine to help you feel relaxed during the procedure.

Lab Testing API offers a range of Blood tests that an individual can order themselves online, and all lab orders include a physician’s order.

The above content is purely informational, and it should not be considered as medical advice or a doctor’s recommendation. The websites of American Association for Clinical Chemistry, Healthline have been referenced to prepare this informational material.

Written by Dr. Shikha Sharma, Reviewed by Dr. Harshi Dhingra