The Best Injection Sites for an Intramuscular Injection

If you're using assisted fertility treatments as you are trying to conceive, you may have to regularly inject yourself with hormone treatments. Choosing the proper site (location on your body) is necessary to ensure effective absorption and avoid injury.

Woman using an Insulin injection
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Fertility treatments must be taken as intramuscular (IM) injections so that the medicine can be absorbed into the muscle. Your muscles are located under a layer of insulating fat that lies beneath your skin.

While giving yourself injections can seem overwhelming at first, preparation and practice can make the process of injecting your hormone treatments relatively quick and painless. 

Injection Site

There are four sites you can use to give yourself an intramuscular injection.

The best locations for an IM injection are your upper arms, thighs, hips, and buttocks. These sites have large, easy to locate muscles and a little fatty tissue covering them.

Upper Arm (Deltoid Muscle)

Your deltoid muscle is located in your upper arm, just below your shoulder. To mark this site, place the palm of your hand on your shoulder and spread your thumb apart from your other fingers to form an upside down V shape. Make sure that the middle of your arm is centered in your V. You will want to inject yourself in the middle of the V.

Thigh (Vastus Lateralis Muscle and Rectus Femoris)

Your vastus lateralis and rectus femoris muscles are located in your thigh. To properly mark these muscles, divide the front of your thigh into thirds from the top to the bottom of the thigh. To inject into the vastus lateralis, the needle should go into the middle third on the outer portion of your thigh. The rectus femoris muscle is located in the middle third, at the front of your thigh.

Hip (Ventrogluteal Muscle)

Your ventrogluteal muscle is located near your hip. For injections in this site, you'll need a friend or partner to do the injection for you. To mark this site, lie on your back and have your partner stand to face your hips.

Have your partner place the heel of their hand so that their wrist is lined up with your thigh; your partner's thumb should be pointed toward your groin and their fingers should be pointed toward your head. They should feel the border of a bony area with the ring finger and pinkie, after which your partner should spread their pointer finger and middle finger into a V and give the injection between those fingers.

Buttocks (Dorsogluteal Muscle)

The dorsogluteal muscle is the large muscle located in your buttocks. This injection site should also be accessed with the help of a partner. Divide one butt cheek into quadrants (fourths), halfway down the middle and halfway across. You will always want to the injection in the outer, upper quadrant, almost toward the hip.

Injection Technique

It is important that you feel comfortable with the technique before you start giving yourself injections. Most people can learn to do this after a brief discussion and instructions with a nurse or another medical professional at the doctor's office. You may also be instructed to watch a video or practice on a doll.

There are a few strategies you can use to make your injections safe and painless, including numbing the area beforehand and selecting your injection site carefully.

Make sure to palpate (carefully feel) your selected muscle before giving yourself an injection to make sure your muscle is large enough. Try to keep your muscle as relaxed as possible by getting into a comfortable position. 

In addition to a prescription for the medication itself, your doctor will also give you a prescription for syringes and needles.

Normally, it is recommended that you alternate sites with each injection so that you can avoid any swelling or soreness. If you have a special situation, such as an injury or a wound, your healthcare provider may recommend a particular muscle or site for you to use for your injections.

Side Effects

Make sure to keep an eye out for any side effects such as pain, redness, swelling, warmth, pus, or drainage at the injection site. Report anything you are concerned about to your doctor or nurse.

A Word From Verywell

If you have learned to give yourself or someone else IM injections, be aware that not all injections are IM. Some other conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and nutritional deficiencies may require other types of injections, such as subcutaneous injections. If you have already learned to give yourself IM injections, you might be able to learn to give other types easily, potentially helping loved ones if they need to inject medication for a health condition.

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Article Sources
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  1. Ogston-Tuck S. Intramuscular injection technique: an evidence-based approach. Nurs Stand. 2014 Sep 30;29(4):52-9. doi: 10.7748/ns.29.4.52.e9183.

  2. Elgellaie A, Ashcroft E, Larkin TA. Effects of thickness of muscle and subcutaneous fat on efficacy of gluteal intramuscular injection sites. Br J Nurs. 2018 Mar 22;27(6):300-305. doi: 10.12968/bjon.2018.27.6.300.

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