Making Your Humira Injection Less Painful

Biologic medications have changed how autoimmune conditions are treated, often providing more effective management of diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). In the case of Humira (adalimumab), the medication can be given at home by injection, either in a self-injecting pen or with a syringe. A patient can inject themselves or have a friend or a family member help. Humira injections have been known to cause a certain amount of pain, usually a burning or stinging sensation. The good news is that Humira is now also available in a citrate-free formula, resulting in less discomfort at the injection site. Talk to your healthcare provider about transitioning to Humira Citrate-Free, but in the meantime, it might be helpful to try different ways to cut down on that injection discomfort.

Woman with exposed belly pinching her belly fat
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It probably won't be necessary or even prudent to use all these techniques for every injection. In fact, some of these ideas might work to lessen pain and others might not, because everyone is different. A good technique is to try one or two at the next injection and then determine if they are effective. Be sure to discuss any changes to an injection routine with a healthcare professional.

The Humira loading dose is challenging because it involves getting several shots on the same day, but it is done in a healthcare provider's office. Prior to the appointment for that first set of injections, discussing pain management during the loading dose should be a priority.

Pain Relievers

The use of over-the-counter pain relievers may help in lessening discomfort from injections. However, for people living with IBD, it's important to discuss the use of any pain relievers with a gastroenterologist. Some pain medication might be safer to use with IBD than others, so getting clear instructions on what can be taken and how much is important.

Warm Up the Pen

It's recommended that Humira is kept refrigerated until it is ready to use. AbbVie, the makers of Humira, advise taking the injection pen out of the cold and letting it warm up to room temperature before giving the injection. This could take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. Injecting room temperature medication may be more comfortable for some people than injecting cold medication straight from the refrigerator.

Use Ice to Numb the Area

An easy but effective way to reduce pain from an injection is to numb the area with a cold pack. Putting cold on the skin does need to be done carefully, though, in order to ensure that the skin isn't damaged by too much cold. Using a cold pack that's made for icing an injury is a good idea, but a frozen bag of vegetables (like peas) could also be used. Using actual ice, such as in a plastic bag, is also an option, but it can be easy to apply too much cold this way. Cold shouldn't be applied directly to the skin; always use a towel between the cold pack and the skin. Cold can be used for about 20 minutes before it needs to be removed.

Pinch the Skin

Pinching some skin at the injection site may also help. When learning how to administer the injection, or at check-in with a nurse, it's worth asking for some instruction on how to use this technique to see if it can lessen pain from the injection.

Relax the Muscle

This is harder to do because it requires some training to relax a muscle that is going to be experiencing pain. However, keeping a muscle relaxed is a good way to avoid it hurting more. Making a conscious effort to relax muscles and calm breathing and heart rate may help avoid some discomfort from the injection.

Rest After Injecting

After injecting, it might feel better to wait before trying to move that muscle or putting anything on the injection site, such as clothes or even a bandage. For this reason, it's best to plan enough time not only to give the injection but also to take a few minutes to relax, meditate, or rest afterward.

A Word From Verywell

The Humira burn is well-known, but all things considered, it is short-lived in comparison to the risks of not using the medication to manage the condition for which it was prescribed. Using the tips above, plus asking healthcare providers for more help and tips based on their experience and knowledge will also be of great use. If there is any concern at all about doing the injections, contact a healthcare provider right away to get guidance; staying on track with the timing of the injections is important to keeping IBD managed.

2 Sources
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  1. Ramael S, Van hoorick B, Tiessen R, et al. Similar pharmacokinetics of the adalimumab (humira) biosimilar BI 695501 whether administered via subcutaneous autoinjector or prefilled syringe (VOLTAIRE-AI and VOLTAIRE-TAI): phase 1, randomized, open-label, parallel group trials. Rheumatol Ther. 2018;5(2):403-421. doi:10.1007/s40744-018-0119-1

  2. Vlieland ND, Nejadnik MR, Gardarsdottir H, et al. The impact of inadequate temperature storage conditions on aggregate and particle formation in drugs containing tumor necrosis factor-alpha inhibitors. Pharm Res. 2018;35(2):42. doi:10.1007/s11095-017-2341-x

Additional Reading

By Amber J. Tresca
Amber J. Tresca is a freelance writer and speaker who covers digestive conditions, including IBD. She was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at age 16.