Like many other people with diabetes, I wear two devices on my body at all times: my insulin pump (my pod) and my continuous glucose monitor (CGM). And I’m often asked whether or not these little gadgets are painful.
Fortunately, the answer is that most of the time, they aren’t. I rarely feel it when my CGM sensor or my insulin pod’s cannula pierce my skin, which makes the whole experience of wearing them a lot more comfortable – and much less dreadful when it’s time to rotate sites.
Speaking of sites and pain, though, I admit that there are some sites that, for me, tend to work better than others. The following are the different locations I use for my pod and CGM sensors, in order of what tends to be best to the worst.
Stomach: This is the site at which I have the best insulin absorption, so it’s a clear winner for me when it comes to my pod placement. I also find that it almost never hurts when I press up against the pod (e.g., when I roll over in bed in the middle of the night) when it’s on my belly. The same is true for my CGM sensors, which also seem to be the most accurate when they’re placed on my abdomen. I guess there’s a reason why the stomach site is the only one recommended by the FDA for the Dexcom CGM (which is what I use)!
Lower back: I have yet to try my CGM here, but I often place my pod on my lower back without issue. This site can be trickier to navigate because if I forget that my pod’s there when I’m getting dressed in the morning, I can come precariously close to accidentally knocking it off – and I have in the past. Plus, the pod can rub up against me in an unpleasant way when I’m working out; specifically, doing any sort of abdominal exercise on the ground. But it’s not something I can’t tolerate, and the insulin absorption in this location is just too good in general for me to pass over it altogether.
Upper arm: I wear my pod and CGM on my upper arms sometimes, but they don’t always adhere well for some reason. Getting dressed can be even more problematic for me if I forget that my sites are on my arms – I’ve totally ripped off pods and sensors when I’ve been taking off and putting on clothing. And for a long time, my CGM sensors would make me bleed when I inserted them in my upper arm. I never figured out why, and the problem seems to have gone away, but it definitely made me a little more wary about using my arms as a site (PLUS any devices I wear on my arms are highly visible, and I don’t always like it when people stare at them).
Thigh: Hands-down, the worst site for my pods are my thighs. For starters, wearing denim jeans – especially if they’re skinny jeans – are such a feat when wearing a thigh pod. The fabric pushes up against the pod in such a way that I prefer wearing dresses, skirts, or leggings for the three days that I have a thigh pod just so I can be more comfortable. And speaking of comfort, it’s tough for me to get into a cozy sleeping position when I have a thigh pod because I like sleeping on my stomach sometimes, and there’s just too much pressure up against my pod when it’s on my thigh. And for me, it seems that insulin absorption just isn’t great on my thighs (maybe because they’re on the muscular side). BUT, I will say…I recently tried a CGM sensor on my thigh for the first time and I didn’t hate it! The accuracy was good and it wasn’t in the way as much as a thigh pod (I keep wanting to type “tide pod”) would be. I’ve only had it on my leg for a few days now so I don’t know yet how the adhesive will hold up, but I’ll find out.
Spots I haven’t tried yet (but want to): On social media, I’ve seen people wear Dexcom sensors on their forearms (eek), upper butt cheek (tee-hee), and even on their calves. And pod placement can get even wilder with spots in the center of the back (HOW can people reach back there) and, um, the upper-breast area (one word: ouch). While I don’t think I’ll ever work up the courage to try some of those spots, I am curious about others.
The bottom line is, though, that the sites that work best for me might not work as well for you. (The same thing can be said for my worst sites.) But it is important to remember, above all, the importance of rotating sites…even though I’m clearly not a huge fan of pods on my legs, I’ll still suck it up and place them there because I know that I should be careful of scar tissue buildup.
It just makes the pod-and-sensor-change days that much more pleasant when I can move them from a disliked site to a favorite site, anyways.
7 thoughts on “The Best (and Worst) Insulin Pump Infusion and CGM Sensor Sites”
Loved your article/information-I am a 54 yo male and have ended up using my chest and it has been for the most part wonderful-I’d rank it 8 to 9 out of 10 for no pain and awesome absorption. I do use OmniPod and Dexcom G6 and Loop with the Riley Link since October 2019. It is wonderful.
I was diagnosed with type1 diabetes at 13 months old and was started using a Minimed/Medtronic insulin pump in 2004 (506 & 507 up to 523) and their CGM (Spike or Harpoon – wow did that hurt and must have created a bunch of scar tissue over the years!) and over used my stomach for years so I had to “explore new territory” and have also placed the Pod on my back – just under my shoulder blades or the corner just behind my arms – usually get help from family member to help put on – I can use the door jam to remove it. I “cut the cord” and switched to OmniPod in 2015. I really appreciate the 45 degree insertion from both OmniPod and Dexcom and love Dexcom ease of use and accuracy and dependability! Because of “killing my stomach” I had to find other places to try. I have used the OmniPod on my upper and lower forearms (because I saw folks had it there) and it works pretty well – for me better than my upper arm. I’ve tried the Pod on my leg/calf a few times and wouldn’t try it again-also read someone tried Dexcom CGM there & it was painful and accuracy was questionable. I love using my inner and upper legs for the Dexcom (it works well for Dexcom and not for OmniPod for me).
Have a super week!
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Thanks for writing, Thomas! I’ve got to work up the courage to try my OmniPod on my forearm – I’ve also seen people wear Dexcom sensors there with great success! Hope you have a wonderful rest of the week. 🙂
I´m on Libre now but planning to move to Dexcom once all the coronavirus madness goes aways (hopefully soon). Btw, I love that sweater 😛
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You will love Dexcom! And thank you – some talented artist came up with the design :D!
My 15 year old son was diagnosed 2 years ago with type 1. He is using the Omnipod and Dexcom G6. He hasn’t been adventurous with sites. He is very slim and he complains of pain with insertions. He sticks to his upper arms for both pod and sensor. He feels the abdomen is uncomfortable for sleeping and when he had rowing. The big issue is since the time limit for the sensor is 10 days he is adjusting his pod on one arm for those days. I am hoping in time he will feel comfortable trying other sites as I worry about scar tissue as well as cell damage creating less absorption.
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Ugh, I’m sorry to hear he has site fears! He’s definitely not the only one, I really had to work up the courage to try other sites. It helped me to use dummy sites – both Dexcom and OmniPod make sensors/pods for trial purposes, they don’t actually prick you. You could contact both companies, explain the situation, and ask for some samples to try to help him get more comfortable with new sites!
[…] The Best (and Worst) Insulin Pump Infusion and CGM Sensor Sites – I shared my opinions in this post on what makes the best and worst sites for my medical devices. If anyone is wondering about trying a new site, chances are I’ve described how I feel about it in this post. […]