Insulin injection methods

Insulin is a hormone that helps cells use glucose for energy.

It works as a “key” that allows you to regulate the passage of sugar from the blood to the cells.

People with type 1 diabetes and uncontrolled type 2 diabetes may need insulin injections to ensure this proper function.

This may seem not easy at first, but you can learn to inject yourself successfully with the support of your healthcare team, determination, and a little practice.

Insulin injection methods

There are different ways to take insulin; insulin syringes and pens are the most commonly used methods. Your doctor will help you decide which technique is best for you.

  1. Syringes

Syringes remain a standard method of administering insulin. They are the least expensive option, and most insurance companies cover them.

Syringes vary in the amount of insulin they contain and the size of the needle. They are made of plastic and must be thrown away after one use. Below you can see how to inject insulin correctly with syringes.

  1. Pens or pens

The pen is a newer and more practical method. Before injecting, it must be purged to ensure free and unobstructed flow; When doing this, you should see at least one drop of insulin at the tip of the needle. Once the flow is verified, the desired dose can be marked, and the insulin injected.

Pens are for one-person use only. Once it has been inserted into the skin, it should be pressed vertically, not at an angle.

After fully depressing the button, you should slowly count to 10 and remove the needle from the skin. This is necessary to obtain the total dose.

Where to inject insulin?

Insulin is injected subcutaneously, that is, into the layer of fat under the skin. In this type of injection, a short needle is used.

Insulin must be injected into the fatty tissue just under the skin. If you inject insulin deeper into your muscle, your body will absorb it too quickly, it may not last as long, and the injection is often more painful.

People who inject insulin daily should rotate injection sites. This is important because using the same spot over time can cause lipodystrophy.

This causes fat to break down or accumulate under the skin, creating lumps or indentations that interfere with insulin absorption.

Recommended places to inject insulin:

  1. Abdomen

The best place to inject insulin is the abdomen. Insulin is absorbed faster and is an easily accessible part of the body. Select a site between the lower part of the ribs and the pubic area, avoiding the area close to 2 cm surrounding your belly button.

  1. Thigh

Another good place to inject insulin is in the upper and outer thigh areas, about 10 cm down from the top of your leg and 10 cm up from your knee.

  1. Arm

Use the fatty area on the back of your arm, between your shoulder and elbow. It would help to avoid areas around scars, moles, or skin blemishes. These can interfere with the way your body absorbs insulin. Stay away from broken blood vessels and varicose veins.

  1. Lower back and buttocks

To give an injection at this site, draw an imaginary line across the top of the buttocks between the hips. Place the needle above this line but below the waist, between the spine and the sides.

As with the upper arm, this site is challenging to use for self-injection and may require administration by another person. When injecting into the buttocks, avoid the bottom.


How to inject insulin?

Before injecting insulin, be sure to check its quality. If refrigerated, allow the insulin to come to room temperature.

If the insulin is cloudy, mix the contents by rolling the vial between your hands for a few seconds.

Short-acting insulin that does not mix with other insulin and must be clear. Do not use granular, thick, or discolored vials.

The steps to inject insulin correctly are:

  1. Gather supplies and sanitize hands

Assemble the medication vial, needles, syringes, alcohol swabs or swabs, and a particular container for proper disposal. Wash your hands well with soap and warm water. Be sure to wash the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.

  1. Clean the skin where the insulin will be injected

You can use an alcohol pad, or a cotton swab dipped in alcohol. If you have used this vial before, clean the cap on the top.

  1. Measure the dose

Hold the syringe upright (with the needle at the top) and pull the plunger down until the tip of the plunger reaches the measurement equal to the dose you plan to inject.

Push the needle into the stopper and push the plunger down, so the air from the syringe enters the bottle. The air will replace the amount of insulin that you will withdraw.

  1. Load the syringe

Keeping the needle in the vial, turn the vial upside down. Pull the plunger down until the top of the black plunger reaches the correct dose in the syringe.

If there are bubbles in the syringe, tap it gently so that the bubbles rise to the top. Push the needle to release the bubbles back into the vial. Pull the plunger down again until the correct dose is reached.

  1. Grab a fold of your skin

Gently pinch the skin and fat between your thumb and forefinger. This will prevent you from injecting into the muscle.

  1. Unload the syringe at 90 degrees

Insert the needle in a line perpendicular to your skin. Do not hold the syringe at different angles. Make sure the hand is ultimately into the skin. Release the pinched tissue and press the plunger to inject the insulin. Hold the needle in place for 5 seconds and pull the hand out.

  1. Press and dispose of properly.

Press on the injection site for 5 to 10 seconds and cover with gauze. Do not rub. This will prevent the insulin from leaking out. Dispose of the used insulin syringe as directed. Do not recap the needle before throwing it away.


Helpful tips to avoid pain

To make the injection less painful:

  • Inject insulin at room temperature. If the insulin has been stored in the refrigerator, remove it 30 minutes before injecting.
  • Remove all air bubbles from the syringe before injection.
  • If you wipe your skin with an alcohol pad, wait until it dries before injecting insulin.
  • Relax the muscles at the injection site.
  • Do not change the direction of the needle during insertion or removal.
  • You can numb your skin with an ice cube for a couple of minutes before cleaning it with alcohol.
  • Avoid injecting into the roots of body hair.


Today there are several insulin treatment methods; the most practical are injections and pens.

If you must inject every day, you must rotate the sites. The thighs, abdomen, arms, and buttocks are the allowed areas.

Remember, if you are injecting insulin for the first time, have problems, or have questions, it is recommended that you consult your healthcare team for advice and instructions.

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