The Best Practice Pain Relief Venipuncture

The Procedure

Performing a venipuncture correctly reduces the potential for pain. With all needed supplies set up and handy, it prevents holding or moving a needle more than necessary in a patient's arm. Tying the tourniquet, which is often made of latex or vinyl, over a patient's rolled up sleeve prevents painful pinching. Removing the tourniquet if set-up or vein location takes longer than expected is also necessary. Tourniquets left tied on a patient for too long are not only painful, but can also cause irreversible tissue damage.

Warming the area using a portable heating device or heat lamp raises the veins closer to skin surface, making them easier to locate. This can assist greatly in helping to make the procedure pain-free.

Feeling for the vein and identifying its depth and direction helps the phlebotomist determine the angle of needle insertion--and having a correct angle prevents "missing" the vein or inserting the needle too deeply through the vein, which are, at best, uncomfortable, and at worst, quite painful. A correct angle of insertion also prevents hematoma--blood leaking into surrounding tissues--which can also cause pain, and in severe cases injury to the patient.


Patient communication is a vital part of preventing pain to begin with. Patients are often fearful of having blood drawn and imagine pain because of their apprehension. A phlebotomist should explain, in clear and non-technical terms what the procedure entails and what he will be doing. In some cases, friendly, distracting conversation can also go a long way in preventing and managing pain.


If pain does occur, it's usually caused by bruising of the area or a hematoma. To minimize pain and injury, a phlebotomist should have the patient hold the area above their heart. For example, if the venipuncture was in their arm fold, have the patient hold the entire arm above their head. Ice on the area, or held to the back of the neck, can also manage pain as well as dizziness.

Bandaging the area with firm, not restrictive, pressure helps control bleeding and can relieve some of the pain of venipuncture as well.

Whereas collectign some blood is not a major medical procedure, it is a procedure, nonetheless. Remind the person to take it easy for a few hours. If the patient can tolerate non-prescription pain relievers, the phlebotomist may instruct her to take some.

Venipuncture should never be extremely painful, in any case. If the patient complains of severe pain, or their pain is not helped by the above methods, the phlebotomist should alert other health care providers or, in extreme cases, call for emergency services personnel. Phlebotomists should follow two practices to prevent pain in their patients: using correct procedures when drawing blood the first time and open, clear communication with the patient. However, pain can occur even if the phlebotomist follows these practices to the letter. In these cases, there are simple best practice after-care measures that can reduce and help patients manage their pain.