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Tips for Injecting Insulin

Getting the Most From Your Insulin Injections

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Updated May 02, 2011

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Tips for Injecting Insulin

Injecting insulin properly is an important part of diabetes management.

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Most people with type 1 diabetes take their insulin through injections with a syringe. It is important that you know where to inject your insulin in order to get the best absorption and minimize the discomfort. Here are some tips for your daily injections:

Choosing the Injection Site

The most common areas for injecting insulin are the:

  • Abdomen
  • Thigh
  • Arm
  • Buttock

When injecting insulin in the abdominal area, make most of your injections in a 3-4 inch band just above your beltline and below the bottom of your ribs. Stay at least two inches away from your bellybutton.

The front thigh muscle is also a popular injection site because the muscle is large and the nerves are not as sensitive as in other areas of the body. The target area for injecting into the thigh is at least 4 inches above the knee and at least 4 inches below the top of the leg. Injecting in the inner thigh should be avoided due to greater sensitivity of the nerves in this area.

Though the arm is also a common place for injecting insulin, you should limit your injection area to the fleshy area at the back of the arm between the shoulder and elbow.

The buttock area is another popular injection site because the muscle is large and typically less painful as long as you inject in the hip region, or the “wallet area” of the middle to upper buttock. Avoid the lower buttock where the nerves are more sensitive.

Absorption of insulin is faster when injected in the abdomen and arm, and somewhat slower in the thigh or hip region. Physical activity can speed up the absorption of insulin. If you plan on participating in a strenuous physical activity shortly after injecting insulin, avoid doing so in the muscle group most used in that activity. For example, don’t inject in your thigh if you intend to run or in the arm if you plan on playing tennis. Also, remember to check your blood glucose during times of activity to ensure that your blood sugar doesn’t go low.

Rotating the Injection Site

It is important to rotate your injection site, especially if you inject in the same region of the body on a regular basis. The rule of thumb is to move the new injection site at least two fingers width away from the previous site. Scar tissue can build up when you repeatedly inject in the same location, which inhibits the absorption of insulin. Try to avoid injecting in the exact same spot for at least two weeks.

Preparing the Site and Injecting Insulin

You should clean the injection site with an alcohol swab before injecting. Then, select a specific place you intend to insert the needle, pinch up the skin, and insert the needle at a 90-degree angle while the skin is pinched. Relax your pinch while leaving the needle in place for about five seconds before withdrawing the needle. Do not immediately massage the area of the injection.

Sometimes there is a small amount of bleeding after removing the needle. If this occurs, simply apply direct pressure to the area for about 30 seconds and the bleeding should stop.

Taking the Sting out of Insulin Injections

There are ways to minimize the discomfort of injecting insulin.

  • Allow the alcohol you used to clean the injection site to completely dry before injecting. This will also help lessen the pain when using a lancing device on fingers or other testing areas for blood glucose checks.

  • If you store your insulin in the fridge, let it warm up to room temperature or gently roll the vial between your hands to warm it up.

  • Use a new needle each time you inject. Though the needle may look just as sharp after one injection, it actually becomes increasingly dull with each use. The same is true of lancets.

  • Don’t insert the needle slowly or move it around once it has pierced the skin. A firm insertion at a 90-degree angle is best.

Sources:

Islets of Hope. "Tips on how to give an insulin injection."

Joslin Diabetes Center. "Tips for injecting insulin."

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