How do I Choose the Best Injection Sites?

Erin J. Hill

Choosing the best injection sites should depend on your doctor’s instructions and the type of medication you are currently using. In most cases, the primary concerns for choosing where to administer the needle are finding someplace that will cause as little pain as possible while still allowing the body to thoroughly absorb the medicine. The most common areas for injecting insulin and other self-administered medications are the upper arms, thighs, abdomen, and sometimes the buttocks.

A syringe and vial of medication.
A syringe and vial of medication.

Most commonly used injection sites are fatty areas of the body. This is because fat allows the body to absorb medications more quickly and thoroughly than muscle, thus giving you more benefits with less drugs being needed. Insulin is the most common self administered treatment, and it is more readily absorbed in the abdomen, followed by the arms and thighs. The buttocks are not generally recommended.

The upper part of the arm is a common injection site, depending on the medication.
The upper part of the arm is a common injection site, depending on the medication.

When injections are needed daily, it is important to alternate injection sites to allow better absorption and less pain for the patient. Fatty deposits can also accumulate beneath the skin if an injection site is used too frequently. This can create a lumpy appearance and hinder the medication or hormone’s effectiveness.

Never inject yourself within two inches (5.08 centimeters) of the belly button, and switch up the injection site every other dose. For instance, if you inject insulin into your stomach in the morning and need another dose in the evening, inject your arm during the evening dosage. This will allow your body to absorb things better, and prevent the site from becoming sore due to overuse. If you choose to do all of your injections in the same general location, make sure the exact injection sites are moved by an inch (2.54 cm or more each time.

Keep accurate records of when and where you inject yourself. This ensures that you do not overuse the same injection site over and over again, or use too much medication. If you have not kept accurate records in the past and are having trouble remembering where you last administered medication, choose a spot that you seldom use, such as the inner thigh.

If at any time any of your usual injection sites become red, swollen, numb, tender, or you experience any other unusual symptoms, contact your doctor right away. This could signal anything from the overuse of the same site, an allergic reaction, or another condition. Discontinue injections and see your physician, especially if the problem persists.

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Discussion Comments


@bythewell - If you had to give yourself injections for some reason (many women eventually need to for fertility treatments, for example) you would quickly get used to it.

I've heard that recently they've developed much smaller needles and much easier ways for people to deliver their own insulin or other hormones, which is wonderful and means that needle injection sites aren't as much of a problem.

It would be more wonderful, however, if they would finally develop a real cure for diabetes, like insulin producing cells. They are getting close to this, so we should all keep our fingers crossed.


The idea of having to inject myself makes me shudder a little bit, although I have given injections to cows and not had a problem. I have been over to Africa, so I've had a lot of inoculations as well. After the third or fifth, they became old hat, but still.

However, I've had friends with diabetes who have to give themselves regular injections. Eventually it can really damage the skin and blood vessels on the regular sites where they can inject.

This is one of the reasons, too that drug users end up damaging themselves. They don't have any idea how to use a needle properly and overuse a site until it gets infected.

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