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Giving Yourself an Intramuscular Injection in the Arm

Outline side view of man's shoulder and chest with shoulder joint showing. Dotted line shows area for injection.
Your health care provider has prescribed a medication that must be given by intramuscular (IM) injection. IM injections use a needle and syringe to deliver medication to large muscles in your body. IM injections are usually given in the buttock, thigh, hip,  or upper arm.

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


Name of my medication: ___________________________

Amount per injection: ____________________________

Times per day: _______________________________

Before you begin

  • Use the upper arm site only if other larger sites cannot be used.

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

  • Prepare your medication as you were shown by your health care provider.

Locate an injection site

Make an imaginary upside down triangle on your upper arm:

  • Find the knobby edge of your upper arm, where your arm meets your shoulder. This bone forms the base of the triangle.

  • The point of the triangle is below the base at about the level of your armpit.

  • The center of the triangle should be about 1 to 2 inches below the knobby edge that formed the upper base of the triangle.

Inject the medication

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

  • Stretch the skin tight.

  • Hold the syringe like a dart. Insert the needle at a right (90°) angle to your skin.

  • Give no more than 1 ml (or cc) of medication in this site. If the prescribed dose is more than 1 ml, choose a different site in which to inject the medication.

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

  • Release the skin.

  • Dispose of the materials as you were shown by your doctor or nurse.

  • Wash your hands.


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 illness. These illnesses include hepatitis B and C. They also include infections of the brain or spinal cord (meningitis and epidural abscess).


Follow-up care

Make a follow-up appointment as directed by our staff.


When to seek medical care

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

  • Needle that breaks off in the injection site

  • Medication 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 101.0°F (38.3°C)


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