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 Sites

There are four sites you can use to give yourself an intramuscular injection. These sites have large, easy-to-locate muscles with 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 healthcare provider'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 healthcare providerr 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 healthcare provider 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is an intramuscular injection?

    An intramuscular (IM) injection is the injection of a medication into a muscle. An IM injection may be recommended because large muscles have more blood vessels in them than skin tissue, enabling faster absorption of the drug.

  • Where do you give an intramuscular injection?

    The best sites for an intramuscular injection are:

    • Deltoid muscle of the shoulder
    • Vastus lateralis muscle on the outside of the thigh
    • Rectus femoris muscle on the front of the thigh
    • Dorsogluteal muscle on the upper buttock
    • Ventrogluteal muscle on the hip just above the dorsogluteal muscle
  • How do you give an intramuscular injection?

    To give an intramuscular injection, either to yourself or someone else:

    1. Gather your supplies.
    2. Wash your hands.
    3. Clean the injection site with an alcohol swab.
    4. Remove the cap from the needle.
    5. Push the needle through the rubber seal on top of the vial.
    6. Draw back the plunger to fill the syringe.
    7. Withdraw the needle from the vial.
    8. Remove any air bubbles by gently tapping the syringe and compressing the plunger.
    9. Holding the syringe like a dart, position the needle at a 90-degree angle to the injection site.
    10. Insert the needle with a brisk, controlled motion.
    11. Compress the plunger to inject the drug.
    12. Remove the needle.
    13. Apply pressure to the injection site with some gauze.
    14. Discard the needle and syringe safely.
  • When is an intramuscular injection avoided?

    For people with a severe bleeding disorder or low platelet count, intramuscular injections may be avoided due to the risk of bleeding. They may also not be appropriate for people with hypovolemic shock or muscle wasting as these conditions may affect drug absorption.

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Article Sources
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