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7 Tips for Taking Injections with Rheumatoid Arthritis

Managing RA

October 31, 2022

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Studio Firma/Stocksy United

Studio Firma/Stocksy United

by Alexis Rochester


Medically Reviewed by:

Stella Bard, MD


by Alexis Rochester


Medically Reviewed by:

Stella Bard, MD


The first few years of self-administering injections were tough. But now I don’t even bat an eye.

After I was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis — now referred to as juvenile idiopathic arthritis — I took several medications including methotrexate and naproxen in pill form.

The only injections I had at the time were those they gave at the doctor’s office that went directly into the joint.

At 18, my symptoms started to change, and my doctor started incorporating a biologic. The first one I took was Humira injections.

Over the years, I have also taken Enbrel, Simponi, Cimzia, and Actemra. Cimzia was a syringe, but the other biologics were a typical pen injection.

The first few years were a little rough. It was emotionally stressful starting injections. I felt intimidated, and I dreaded doing it each week.

Over time, I learned better ways to self-administer injections to make them less painful. And now, I don’t even bat an eye when I take a weekly injection.

If you are newly diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or you’re starting an injection for the first time, these tips might help simplify the process.

Types of injections

There are different types of injections, depending on how medication needs to be administered.

  • Intravenous (IV) injections are only administered by medical professionals and involve using a syringe to inject medication directly into a vein. This can be as a single dose or as an infusion over many hours.
  • Intramuscular (IM) injections deliver medication deep into a muscle.
  • Subcutaneous (SC) injections are administered into the fatty tissue between the skin and muscle.

Methotrexate and most biologics are IM or SC injections and can be self-administered or given by a healthcare professional.

Each type of injection and medication may have different recommended administration methods. So it’s important to talk with your healthcare professional to determine whether the tips discussed in this article suit you.

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1. Try taking them in the stomach

Taking injections in the stomach is my top tip.

When I started, I assumed that administering an injection into my upper thigh would be the least painful, so I did that for almost a year.

I finally talked with a nurse at my doctor’s office, and she suggested I try the stomach area instead to see if it was less painful.

This advice seemed counterintuitive as I thought the stomach was usually more tender. Just the thought of taking an injection in my stomach made me squirm a little.

I finally worked up the courage to try — and the difference was night and day! I was in disbelief. I almost didn’t feel the injection going in.

I soon learned that because the leg area is usually more muscular than the stomach, more inflammation can occur, and so it can be more painful. When assessing the pain sensation of insulin shots, a study found that thigh injections were rated as more painful than those in the abdomen.

This is a tip I have shared with lots of people, and they have also had great results.

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2. Have family or a loved one help you

If you are nervous about self-administering an injection, ask if a loved one can help you when you start.

I would jolt or freeze when I first tried to self-administer an injection. Sometimes, I would even drop it.

So my husband started administering the injections for me. He came with me to the doctor’s office to learn how to do this.

This helped a lot. He did it with love and care, which made me less afraid of the whole process. I slowly become more comfortable and confident.

Sometimes, the unknown can make you nervous, so having a little support can help you get used to the sound and feel of the injection.

3. Dedicate a time for taking injections

Having a specified time for your injection can be very helpful. Even if you take an injection once a month, it can be useful to have a certain day and time to do it.

Importantly, it will help you not to forget it! In the first year of taking injections, I forgot to take it so many times. I would take it a few days late or accidentally skip an injection.

You won’t get the benefits of your medication when you miss doses, so I decided to plan a day dedicated to taking the medication. Having the same day and time for every dose makes it more routine.

A specific day for your injection can also help reduce any stress. You might want to choose a calm and quiet day to help you feel relaxed and prepared.

I choose to do mine on a Saturday when there is no work and things are quieter around our house. I take it in the morning before any possible chaos of the day has started.

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4. Try to relax

This seems simple, but it is important. It also sounds easier said than done.

When I was taking injections in my leg, I used to do some jumps or go on a walk beforehand to make sure I was warm and that my body didn’t feel stiff. Doing some stretches can also help. If you’re injecting into your upper arm, try not to clench your fist.

This advice might seem counterintuitive — you might be thinking, I’m taking these injections to help my movement. But remember, whatever movement is possible for you might help make the injection less painful.

It can also be useful to focus your mind on something else or take deep breaths.

5. Make sure the injection is at room temperature

Always double-check with your doctor or healthcare professional about the temperature requirements for your medication.

All those I have taken can warm to room temperature before use. When I started injections, I overlooked this and didn’t always wait long enough.

I find that a cold injection will sting much more than one at room temperature.

Now, I always let my injections sit out on the counter for 30 minutes before taking them. This reduces pain and sensation.

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6. Numb the area

My rheumatologist told me I could use ice on the injection site before taking an injection. Placing ice on the site afterwards could also help reduce inflammation.

If you continue to find injections painful, you should ask your doctor for other options like a numbing cream.

7. Always ask

I was always hesitant to talk with my doctor about injections, as I felt they were now my responsibility. But healthcare professionals can help in many ways if you talk with them, and they have so many tips and tricks.

It’s been almost 20 years since I took my first routine injection for RA. You get used to them after a while, but I hope these tips can help make the process easier and less painful.

Medically reviewed on October 31, 2022

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About the author

Alexis Rochester

Alexis Rochester is an investigative chemist, blogger, and founder of Chemistry Cachet. She shares science-based skin care, cleaning, gardening, and health tips. She was diagnosed with RA at age 10, so she has a passion for pain management tips and research, along with sharing her journey through this disease. She lives in Texas with her daughter, husband, and bulldog. You can find her posting pictures and fun stories daily on Instagram. Also look for Chemistry Cachet on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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