How to Give an Intramuscular Injection

If you have never done it before, the thought of giving an intramuscular injection can be overwhelming and frightening. However, it's not as difficult as it may seem. If you have ever gotten a flu shot, you know that while it may be uncomfortable to receive an intramuscular shot, it is not painful.

Syringe being filled
TEK Image / Science Photo Library / Getty Images

Whether you are giving the shot to yourself or administering it for someone else, doing it for the first time may be a little nerve-wracking. Read through these step-by-step instructions a few times to make yourself familiar and comfortable with the process.

Selecting a site

Safe sites for injections include the upper arm muscle (deltoid), the upper quadrant of the buttock, or the side of the hip (lateral hip) or thigh. Your healthcare provider may have recommendations for which site is best, but generally, it is helpful to alternate sites with each injection to avoid pain or soreness.

How to Give an Injection

Many medications can only be given with an intramuscular injection. Here's how it's done:

  1. Assemble all the supplies you'll need: the medication to be given, syringe and new needle, alcohol prep pad, gauze, band-aid.
  2. Wash your hands.
  3. Prepare or mix the medication according to your instructions and draw the medication into the syringe.
  4. Select the site: It should be free of scars or bumps.
  5. Clean the site with an alcohol pad and allow it to dry. Do not blow on it or fan the site to quicken the drying process.
  6. Spread the skin with your fingers and inject the needle straight down in a dart-like motion all the way.
  7. Pull back on the plunger a little. If you see blood enter the syringe, pull the needle out a little and inject the medication. If you do not see blood, simply inject.
  8. Pull the needle out and dispose of properly in a sharps container. Do not put medical or sharp waste in the regular garbage.
  9. Use the gauze to dab up any blood, if necessary, and cover with a bandage.
  10. Wash your hands.

When To Call 911

Intramuscular injections are typically safe. However, allergic reactions may occur. Seek immediate medical help or call 911 if any of the following symptoms occur after getting an injection:

  • rash
  • itchiness
  • difficulty breathing (shortness of breath)
  • swelling of the mouth, lips, or face


  1. Apply ice on the site to numb the area just prior to cleaning it.
  2. Have the patient relax the area of the injection site. Tension in the muscle makes the injection more painful.
  3. Massage the area afterward to enhance the absorption of the medication.
  4. After drawing up the medication, change the needle. The smaller the needle is, the less painful the injection will be.
  5. Hold the syringe by the barrel and not the plunger. Keeping a finger on the plunger may cause you to inadvertently push the plunger before the needle is entirely in the tissue. This can help prevent you from wasting medication.
8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Ayinde O, Hayward RS, Ross JDC. The effect of intramuscular injection technique on injection associated pain; a systematic review and meta-analysis. Peña Fernández MÁ, ed. PLoS ONE. 2021;16(5):e0250883. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0250883

  2. Nakajima Y, Fujii T, Mukai K, et al. Anatomically safe sites for intramuscular injections: a cross-sectional study on young adults and cadavers with a focus on the thigh. Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics. 2020;16(1):189-196. doi: 10.1080/21645515.2019.1646576

  3. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Giving an IM (Intramuscular) Injection.

  4. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. How to Give Yourself a Subcutaneous Injection Using a Prefilled Syringe.

  5. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Best Way to Get Rid of Used Needles and Other Sharps.

  6. Thomaidou E, Ramot Y. Injection site reactions with the use of biological agents. Dermatologic Therapy. 2019;32(2):e12817. doi: 10.1111/dth.12817

  7. Ayinde O, Hayward RS, Ross JDC. The effect of intramuscular injection technique on injection associated pain; a systematic review and meta-analysis. PLOS ONE. 2021;16(5):e0250883. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0250883

  8. Joukhadar, Nadim MD; Lalonde, Donald MD, MSC, FRCSC. How to Minimize the Pain of Local Anesthetic Injection for Wide Awake Surgery. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery - Global Open: 2021;9(8);3730. doi: 10.1097/GOX.0000000000003730

By Nicole Galan, RN
Nicole Galan, RN, is a registered nurse and the author of "The Everything Fertility Book."