Applied Tension Technique

Applied Tension Technique - For Youth Who Faint at the Sight of Blood or Needles


Why does my child faint at the sight of blood or a needle? 

Most children and teens feel a bit uneasy when they see blood or have to have an injection. For some youth however, seeing blood or needles causes them to feel light-headed or actually faint. Fainting is due to a sudden drop in your child’s heart rate or blood pressure. In most cases, fainting is harmless. It is important, however, that you discuss your child’s fainting with a doctor before teaching this technique or exposing your child to situations (such as needles or blood) that could cause fainting. It is rare to faint from anxiety unless you have this condition, and fortunately for those who do there is a simple technique that can help.   


The Applied Tension Technique 

The Applied Tension Technique (developed by Lars-Göran Öst) is a strategy developed to help prevent fainting or help people recover faster if they do faint. The technique involves tensing muscles in the body, which then raises blood pressure. If your blood pressure increases, you are less likely to faint. 

How To Do It 

Have your child sit in a comfortable chair and tense the muscles in his/her arms, legs, and torso for about 10-15 seconds. Your child should hold the tension until he or she starts to feel a warm sensation in the head (about 10-15 seconds). Then, have him or her relax the body for 20 to 30 seconds. Repeat 5 times. The goal is NOT for your child to completely relax his or her muscles after tensing them as this causes the blood pressure to drop –the exact effect we want to prevent. Rather, the goal is to let the muscles return to a normal state- neither relaxed nor tense.


Once your child seems to understand this process, encourage him/her to practice the above strategy 5 times per day for at least 1 week. This practice can be incorporated into your daily lives. For example, guide your child through this practice while sitting in the car on the way to soccer practice, or while having a snack after school. You might even try this while watching a familiar TV show.

Using With Exposure Exercises

After your child has practiced this technique for at least 1 week, he or she can start using this strategy when doing exposure exercises to blood and needles using his/her Facing My Fears plan. 


Helpful Tips:

  • Speedy Recovery! If your child does faint, you can help him/her recover faster by lying him/her down and elevating the feet.
  • Tense & Relax! If you tense your arm when the needle goes in, it can be more painful. Encourage your child to relax the arm that will be receiving the needle, while tensing the other parts of the body. Have your child practice this before going to get the injection.
  • Warning! If your child develops a headache when trying the applied tension technique, encourage him/her to reduce the level of tension or the frequency of practices.
  • Warning Signs! It can be helpful to have your child learn to recognize the early signs of his/her blood pressure dropping, such as feelings of lightheadedness. Encourage your child to use the tension technique as soon as s/he starts to experience those sensations.
  • Practice! Even though this strategy sounds simple it takes practice to be helpful.