Insulin Injection Techniques
Metabolic Health
Medically Reviewed iconMedically Reviewedcevron icon

Insulin Injection Techniques, Tips & Tricks

Most often than not, people with diabetes need to regulate their blood sugar levels by externally injecting insulin in their bodies. This is either done by themselves or with the help of someone else like a family member or healthcare worker. Insulin is a hormone that is created in the pancreas and helps to regulate the human body’s sugar levels. Insulin injections are an extremely important medicine for people with diabetes for them to lead as normal a life as possible. 

Insulin injection is usually taken via a needle or syringe which extracts insulin from the vial and then the syringe is penetrated inside the skin. This process can tend to get painful for some people as people with diabetes might need to take insulin injections more than once a day. Self-injection might be more difficult than it seems. People may develop bruising or scarring at injection sites, provide inappropriate amounts, or inject in ways that result in inadequate insulin absorption in the body. They may find the procedure frightening and unpleasant. The constant pricking is made easy by the newer insulin pens which are far less painful but they require a certain amount of skill and practice. Let’s take a look at how to best administer insulin to a person with diabetes and what are the factors that should be kept in mind. 

Injection Depth

Subcutaneous fat, often known as skin fat, is where insulin absorbs the fastest. If the needle is inserted too deeply, the insulin may enter a tiny blood artery or muscle tissue, resulting in discomfort and bruising. To prevent this, press up a tissue fold (often on the belly) and insert the needle straight in, not angled.

You need the proper size needle when using a syringe. Although smaller needles hurt less, thicker needles deliver insulin more quickly. Going too deep is less likely with shorter needles. The length of an insulin needle may range from 4 to 6 millimeters, and shorter is often preferable. To help you choose the best-sized needle and syringe for you, consult your doctor, a diabetes educator, or a pharmacist. There are many needle sizes available for insulin pens as well.

Injection Site Rotation

Injection sites are basically points where the insulin injection is administered.  These points should be rotated with each injection, so as to avoid scarring, edema, and poor absorption of the dosage. Each new location should be at least one inch apart from the previous location.

One trick to ensure this is to imagine a clock on your abdomen with your belly button as the center and give your first dosage at "12," which is one inch above your abdominal button. Subsequent doses should be administered keeping this imaginary clock in mind. All injection sites should be at least an inch away from the belly button, and no scars or bruises should be injected. 

Injection Speed

Be careful when it comes to the speed of administration. Pulling out the needle too quickly can result in a patient not getting their full dose. You can hold the syringe in place for 5 seconds after you have pushed the plunger in. Even while pushing the plunger, ensure that there’s an even speed. Make sure your skin is not wet or damp afterward and do not rub the area where you have injected the insulin. 

Book a Free Session

Safe Insulin Storage

Insulin should be refrigerated before use, but left at room temperature thereafter (the opposite of food). You do not wish to provide cold medication. When initiating a fresh vial or pen from the fridge, allow it to get to room temperature for at least 30 minutes before usage. 

Don't let insulin freeze and don't leave it in full sunlight or in a vehicle where it could become too hot as it might lose its effectiveness. Insulin is good at room temperature for 28 days so note the date and change the cartridge after 28 days.

Insulin Organization

More than one type of insulin is sometimes required depending on the case and the person. It is recommended that both the types of insulin should be stored separately to avoid any confusion and administration of the wrong dose. Be very careful while organizing your insulin drawer and follow a set pattern for a long period. 

Insulin Labels

Insulin vials and cartridges come with a fairly easy to understand label which must be thoroughly read and dates must be noted upon opening a new one. Read the label and make sure it is the right type of insulin before taking a dose. Make sure that the insulin doesn’t look discolored in the vial as it is a negative sign. 

Priming Insulin Devices

Insulin pens must be "primed," which means removing the air from the cartridge and needle. Hold the syringe needle up and tap the cartridge a few times after putting on a fresh needle to get any air to rise to the top. Then, with the dosage dial set to 2 units, press the eject button. A drop of insulin should be visible on the needle tip. If you don't notice a decrease, repeat the process to ensure you're not injecting air.

Pull back the syringe plunger with a syringe and vial to inject as much air into the vial as the insulin you will remove. Insert the needle into the vial and press the air in by turning the insulin and syringe over down. Withdraw your insulin dosage while keeping the needle immersed in the liquid. Then, re-insert the insulin into the vial and extract it again.

Also know about insulin resistance.

Mixing Insulin

Insulin comes in a variety of forms, some of which contain hazy NPH insulin and must be blended slowly. Never shake an insulin vial or cartridge, instead gently twist the vial, syringe, or cartridge 10 times between your hands. Then flip it over 10 times from end to end. By then, it should have been properly blended. Avoid storing cartridges or vials in places where they might get knocked over or moved. 

Dexterity And Vision Concerns

Giving yourself an insulin shot requires an amount of dexterity and stability in your hands. Pens are an easier medium than syringes so choose what feels convenient for you. For people who are unable to see properly, there are various tools like syringe magnifiers and tactile measurement devices which will help in the administration of the dose. Consult your doctor for the best advice on which tool to use for the best result. 

Learn And Practice

Giving someone or yourself insulin injection requires a fair bit of practice. The best way to go about this is to sit with your doctor and learn the proper way of insulin administration. You can also take the help of training devices or your family members in case any assistance is required. It's best to first familiarize yourself with all the tools necessary and practice so that you can perfect the technique without causing scarring or any kind of pain. In time, with regular practice, you will be able to successfully administer insulin.

Also read about benefits of dates for diabetes


Which body part is best for injecting insulin?

Injections of insulin function best when administered in the belly. The blood absorbs insulin from the upper arms somewhat more slowly, and from the thighs and buttocks much more slowly. You'll get the greatest benefits from your insulin if you inject it in the same general place, like, say, your abdomen.

When should you inject insulin at night?

When blood sugar levels are steady and within your goal range while you are sleeping, basal insulin should ideally only result in a 30 mg/dL change. Because of this, your healthcare practitioner will probably suggest that you inject basal insulin at night, ideally just before bed. It is also recommended to have a snack after taking insulin before bed to regulate blood sugar levels throughout the night. 

Should you pinch the skin when injecting insulin?

Since the insulin needs to go into the fat layer under the skin, it is okay to slightly pinch the skin while giving the injection. Pinch the skin and insert the needle at a 45-degree angle. If your skin is thicker, you may be able to inject straight up and down (at a 90o angle). Check with your service provider first. Insert the needle completely into the skin. Allow the pinched skin to go. Inject the insulin gently and gradually until it is completely absorbed. After injecting, leave the syringe in place for 5 seconds and then carefully pull it out. 

Should insulin be injected slowly?

The speed of the insulin injection must be maintained throughout while administering the insulin shot. The insulin injected must be given slowly and steadily. 

How deep should insulin be injected?

Human skin is only typically between 1.6 and 2.4 millimeters thick, and insulin is intended to be administered into subcutaneous tissue. A 4-mm needle is adequate to administer insulin to subcutaneous tissue in people of all sizes since skin thickness doesn't dramatically increase in overweight and obese patients.


This website's content is provided only for educational reasons and is not meant to be a replacement for professional medical advice. Due to individual differences, the reader should contact their physician to decide whether the material is applicable to their case.