Giving Yourself an Intramuscular (IM) Injection in the Upper Arm

Side view of man's arm showing shaded triangle on skin over shoulder joint.Your healthcare provider has prescribed a medicine that must be given by intramuscular (IM) injection. IM injections use a needle and syringe to send medicine to large muscles in your body. IM injections are usually given in the buttocks, thigh, hip, or upper arm.

You were shown how to do an IM injection in the hospital. If you did not get an instruction sheet covering those general steps, ask for one. This sheet reminds you how to give an IM injection in the upper arm.

Name of my medicine: ___________________________

Amount per injection: ____________________________

Times per day: _______________________________

Before you begin

  • Use the upper arm site only if other larger sites can't be used.

  • Don’t use the upper arm site if you are very thin or have little to no muscle in your upper arm.

Step 1. Getting ready

  • Wash your hands well before and after all IM injections.

  • Prepare your medicine as you were shown by your healthcare provider.

Step 2. Finding an injection site

Imagine there is a triangle on your upper arm:

  • Find the bone at the top of your upper arm. It is where your arm meets your shoulder. This is one side of the triangle.

  • The other 2 sides of the triangle meet at a point below this bone, at about the level of your armpit.

  • The injection site is in the center of this triangle. It is about 1 to 2 inches below the bone at the top of your upper arm.

Step 3. Injecting the medicine

Prepare the site as you were shown by your healthcare provider. (See the general instruction sheet on giving yourself an IM injection. If you did not get this sheet, ask for one.)

  • Stretch the skin tight.

  • Hold the needle like a pencil. Insert the needle straight into your skin.

  • Give no more than 1 mL of medicine in this site. If the prescribed dose is more than 1 mL, choose a different site to inject the medicine.

Step 4. Removing the needle

  • Remove the needle and syringe outward and away from your body.

  • Let go of the skin.

Step 5. After the injection

  • Put the needle and syringe in a special container (sharps container).

  • Dispose of the other materials as you were shown by your healthcare provider.

  • Wash your hands well.

Medicine that comes in a container for a single dose should be used only 1 time. If you use the container a second time, it may have germs in it that can cause infections. These infections usually affect the skin and soft tissues. But some infections can affect the brain, spinal cord, or heart. Sharing another person's used needles or medicines can cause other infections such as hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised.

When to seek medical care

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the following:

  • Needle that breaks off in the injection site

  • Medicine injected into the wrong area

  • Problems that keep you from giving yourself the injection

  • Bleeding or pain at the injection site that won't stop

  • Rash or swelling at the injection site

  • Shortness of breath

  • Fever above 100.4°F (38°C)