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What Happens if Steroid Is Not Injected Into the Muscle?

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: February 15, 2023
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As a personal trainer, I’ve worked with clients who have taken steroids for medical reasons and purely for performance enhancements. And while I don’t recommend that anybody should inject steroids without medical advice, it’s important to highlight certain risks.

One topic I overheard recently was about where to inject steroids and what could happen if you don’t do it properly.

I decided to find out from a doctor what these risks are and if there were some medical research details I could share with readers.

Here’s what my research uncovered.

Quick Summary

  • Medical professionals undergo lots of training to make sure that intramuscular injections go to the right place and don’t do damage.
  • Making a mistake with a steroid injection needle could cause significant problems, including nerve damage.
  • There are three areas in the body where a steroid injection is generally recommended, and it’s important to know where those muscles are.

What Happens When a Steroid Injection Doesn’t Hit the Muscle?

A person injecting steroids

When a steroid injection doesn’t hit the muscle, it’s possible that the needle can puncture blood vessels and even nerves.

It’s also possible that the damage and medication can cause an infection around the puncture site [1].

This seems to be more common when needles are injected into smaller muscles where there is not as much tissue.

Missing the muscle is more likely in this case, especially when you consider that you have to apply a bit of force.

And that can cause painful nerve damage [2].

And when steroid injections end up coming in contact with ligaments or other connective tissue, then it can cause even more serious issues that will require medical attention [3].

And it’s because of these significant risks that medical professionals go through extensive training when it comes to administering all types of injections.

“Sciatic nerve injury from an IM injection in the upper outer quadrant of the buttock is an avoidable but persistent global problem, affecting patients in both wealthy and poorer healthcare systems.”

- Mark D. Stringer, Professor of Anatomy, Otago School of Medical Sciences

Do You Have to Inject Them Into Muscle?

Yes, you have to inject certain types of steroids into muscle.

There are other alternatives like topical and oral steroids, but if you are using an injectable form, then it has to go into the muscle.

There are many types of medication, including steroids, that can cause significant damage and harm if they go directly into a blood vessel [4].

However, there are safer options. Many types of steroids are also available as oral tablets.

These may work slower and not be suitable for treating certain types of joint inflammation, but they can reduce the risk of doing unwanted damage.

It’s definitely worth talking to a doctor about such oral options and learning if they have other side effects that might cause you problems.

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Alternatives to Injections

A person injecting steroids into someone's biceps

As mentioned above, there are alternatives like oral and topical steroids that reduce inflammation and can help treat certain diseases which many people can benefit from.

However, when it comes to athletes trying to take banned substances to enhance their performance, I always recommend staying away from steroids which aren’t prescribed by a doctor for the right reasons.

The good thing is that there are many legal alternatives that are based on amino acids, minerals, vitamins, and herbs.

They might not have quite the same instant effect as steroids. But because they are safer and still quite effective, they should be the kind of alternatives all athletes consider.


Why Do You Get a Lump After Injecting Steroids?

You get a lump after injecting steroids at the injection site because of minor inflammation.

The needle causes some trauma to the skin and muscle, and this can result in a small bump that goes away after a few days.

Why Is Pain Worse After Steroid Injection?

Some steroid injections can make the pain worse if the drug crystallizes [5].

It’s something that doctors have to carefully monitor, even if it’s a rare side effect.

Take the Safe Approach to Steroids

While there are many perfectly legitimate reasons to take topical oral or injectable steroids, you should never do this without medical supervision.

The risk of not hitting the muscle with such an injection could be significant and even impact your training.

What I would recommend instead is to check out the recommended legal steroids that are available on the market.

These don’t contain any banned substances and generally don’t have nasty side effects.

And the results for performance and muscle growth can still be very impressive.


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