My grandmother had diabetes, and I remember watching her give herself insulin shots and thinking to myself, "I hope I never have to do anything like that. I could never." If you're anything like me, when you were told by your doctor that you would have to give yourself shots, you were mortified.
The first dosage I got was done at the doctors office so that they could show me how to administer the shot. I was not expecting it to be very painful, but it ended up being one of the most painful things I have experienced medically. I was already dreading giving myself the shots, but now it was even worse. The first thing I did when I got home was look up the best way to painlessly give yourself a shot. After almost a year of practice, I think I have a pretty good combination of different methods to make the experience the best it can be.
Hopefully this tutorial will save people the pain I experienced.
Step 1: Gather Your Materials
Here is a list of materials you will need:
- Shot pen
- Alcohol Swab
- Ice Pack
- Music Source
- Sharps Container
The first thing you want to do is gather all of these materials and put them in a calm, safe place where you will administer the shot.
Also, I find that it helps minimize the pain if the medicine is room temperature when you do the shot. So if your medication is refrigerated, take it out of the refrigerator at least 30 minutes beforehand to let it warm up.
Step 2: Numb the Area
One of the easiest and best ways I have found to dull the pain of the needle is to numb the area. You could buy numbing cream, but th at is just an extra unnecessary expense in my experience. A cold ice pack will have the same affect, and you most likely already have either an actual ice pack or something you could substitute one for (e.g. frozen vegetables, ice cream tub, popsicles, or any other frozen good really).
Pick a spot on your upper thigh that you will be doing the injection. Place the ice pack on that spot. Wait about 10 minutes or until you feel that your leg is sufficiently numb.
Step 3: Disinfect the Area
Once your leg is numb, remove the ice pack. Take an alcohol swab and wipe a bigger area than you think you need clean. Be sure to only touch one side of the alcohol swab to keep the area on your leg as clean as possible.
Step 4: Get Music Ready
The second method I use to dull the pain is distracting myself with loud music. The click of the pen can be startling and I've found that having loud music so that I can't hear it somehow makes the shot less painful. Also just having something else to focus on helps.
Pick a song that is loud and will get you pumped. Then pick a spot in that song and tell yourself that is the point you will administer the shot at. I like to pick a song where the bass drops or a beat comes in because those are good points to push the button at.
My go to song is Fake Love by Drake, but pick whatever song you think will help you the most.
Step 5: Prepare the Shot
Now it is time to get the shot ready.
First you want to check that the medicine inside the shot is good. Ask your doctor and check your specific prescription for details, but for mine it should be clear and filled to the black line (as indicated in the first photo). I hold mine up to the light to check for any cloudiness and then flip it over to make sure it is full.
Next, the pen should have two caps, one covering the needle and one covering the trigger button. Remove the cap covering the needle first, then remove the trigger cap.
You are now almost ready to give yourself the shot.
Step 6: Pinch Skin and Place Needle
The next way to make the shot less painful is to get as much of the medicine into your fat as possible. Injecting into muscle will cause more immediate pain as well as more soreness over the next few days. To avoid the muscle as much as possible, you want to pinch up the section of leg at the injection site. Try to get as much fat as you can.
Place the needle on top of the pinched skin at a 90 degree angle, as pictured. Make sure that the window into the pen is facing towards you so that you can see when the indicator comes down.
Step 7: Pull the Trigger!
It is time to give yourself the shot. Wait for the moment you picked in the song, and when it comes, press down on the trigger. Keep your skin pinched the entire time. Hold the pen to your leg for 10 seconds, or until the yellow (in my case, check if yours is different) applicator is completely visible in the window, as shown in the image abovee.
It never takes the full 10 seconds, however, it is better to leave it on your leg too long rather than not long enough. I recommend watching for the yellow applicator then waiting another 2 seconds after you see it down to remove the pen. Just as a precaution.
Step 8: Cover and Massage
After removing the pen, grab a tissue and hold it on the
injection site. Usually there is not much, if any, blood, but it is good to be safe.
My last tip to make the shot less painful is to massage the area directly after the shot. With the tissue still on your leg, rub your thigh in large circles and back and forth. Massaging it may be uncomfortable at first, but it will reduce soreness later. Massage your leg for 2 to 3 minutes, or longer if the area still hurts after that.
Step 9: Bandage Up
This step is optional.
You can place a band-aid over the injection, but usually after holding a tissue on it for a couple minutes, the bleeding has stopped. I usually skip this step because I hate pulling band-aids off later, but if you know your body needs one, go for it.
Step 10: Safely Dispose of Needle
Once you are all done and bandaged up, you need to safely dispose of the medical waste.
You should have a sharps container that was provided to you by your doctor or pharmacy. If so, only the pen with the needle needs to be placed in it. Everything else can be thrown in a normal trash can.
If you do not have a sharps container for some reason, collect your used pens in some container that you can take to a medical facility to properly dispose of them. I suggest using an old 2-liter bottle or milk jug. Check this website: http://www.safeneedledisposal.org/ for locations near you to dispose of your needles. Or, ask your doctor/pharmacy.
Step 11: Additional Aides
Remember, this tutorial may not fit your needs exactly. I hope that it is helpful in general, but always check with your doctor for the specifics you need to abide by.
Here are some additional resources, some of which I looked at before, that you can turn to: