Woman standing in front of a needle reading the direction manual

Tips to Help Reduce Injection Discomfort

Insulin is administered as an injection using either an insulin syringe or penneedle tip (a pen needle tip is attached to the top of an insulin pen).* One of the biggest fears of starting insulin therapy is the fear of injection pain. This article will provide tips to help reduce injection discomfort.

*Insulin may also be administered using a continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion device (insulin pump).

Needle gauge and length variations

  • Needle Gauge

    • Gauge describes the thickness of a needle. The larger the gauge the thinner the needle. Thinner needles usually cause less injection pain.
      • Common gauges: 28, 29, 30, 31, and 32
  • Needle length

    • Insulin syringes and pen needle tips come in various lengths. Some people find that using a shorter needle helps to reduce injection discomfort. An insulin syringe or pen needle tip that is too long may increase the risk of intramuscular injection. Injecting insulin into the muscle causes more discomfort and alters that way insulin in absorbed (insulin should be injected into the subcutaneous tissue which is the area just beneath the skin).
      • Insulin syringe length options: 6 mm, 8 mm, 12.7 mm
      • Pen needle tip length options: 4 mm, 5 mm, 8 mm, 12.7 mm

For reference: 1 inch= 25.4 mm (millimeters)

Injection pens have a shorter needle

  • Using an insulin pen instaed of a syringe allows the user to choose a shorter needle (either 4 mm or 5 mm).*

*For larger amounts of insulin, your physician may prefer that you use a longer needle to prevent insulin from leaking out of injection site.

Avoid muscle, inject into fat

  • Injecting in to the muscle, as mentioned above, can increase injection discomfort. To avoid injecting into muscle:
    • Pinch up the skin at the injection site. This will help separate fat from muscle, helping to ensure that insulin is injected into the fat (not the muscle).
    • Ask your doctor about using a shorter needle (pen needle tips: 4mm or 5 mm; syringes: 6 mm).

Let alcohol cleaning dry before injection

  • Alcohol is commonly used to prepare the skin prior to giving an insulin injection. Allow alcohol to air dry (don’t blow on the area) before injecting. This will help reduce injection pain/burning.

Use room temperature insulin

  • Cold insulin may burn more than insulin stored at room temperature.
  • Most insulins, once opened, are safe at room temperature for 28 days (check packet insert for storage information).

Always use a new needle

  • Insulin syringes and insulin pen needle tips are for single-use. Old needles become dull and may increase injection pain. Using old needles may also increase the risk of infection.

Relax to avoid tensing

  • I know this may be easier said than done, but tensing up before giving an injection will likely cause more injection discomfort. Slowly inhaling and exhaling can help with relaxation.

Try an injection aid tool

  • Some injection aid tools that may help lessen injection discomfort:

    • ShotBlocker by Bionix
      • “It’s a plastic disk with blunt points that, when pushed against the skin, send a sensory overload to the nerves so the pinch of an injection is dulled.” 1
    • i-Port Advance by Medtronic
      • “It attaches to the skin with adhesive and, via an introducer needle, inserts a flexible cannula below the skin. This allows users to inject into the i-Port Advance itself, so a syringe or pen needle never touches their bodies.” 1
    • Insulfon by intrapump
      • “Insuflon is a prescription-only soft cannula that users can wear to deliver their insulin via regular needles or insulin pens.” 1
    • Buzzy by MMJ Labs
      • “This smiling, vibrating bug can dull the feeling of a needle when held to the skin before an injection.” 1

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