Nocebo-induced hyperalgesia during local anesthetic injection

Anesth Analg. 2010 Mar 1;110(3):868-70. doi: 10.1213/ANE.0b013e3181cc5727. Epub 2009 Dec 30.


Common practice during local anesthetic injection is to warn the patient using words such as: "You will feel a big bee sting; this is the worst part." Our hypothesis was that using gentler words for administration of the local anesthetic improves pain perception and patient comfort. One hundred forty healthy women at term gestation requesting neuraxial analgesia were randomized to either a "placebo" ("We are going to give you a local anesthetic that will numb the area and you will be comfortable during the procedure") or "nocebo" ("You are going to feel a big bee sting; this is the worst part of the procedure") group. Pain was assessed immediately after the local anesthetic skin injection using verbal analog scale scores of 0 to 10. Median verbal analog scale pain scores were lower when reassuring words were used compared with the harsher nocebo words (3 [2-4] vs 5 [3-6]; P < 0.001). Our data suggest that using gentler, more reassuring words improves the subjective experience during invasive procedures.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analgesia, Obstetrical / adverse effects*
  • Anesthetics, Local / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Hyperalgesia / etiology*
  • Hyperalgesia / prevention & control
  • Hyperalgesia / psychology
  • Injections, Intradermal / adverse effects
  • Pain Measurement
  • Perception
  • Pregnancy
  • Suggestion


  • Anesthetics, Local