The specialist, doctor or physiotherapist has prescribed you a shoulder sling to wear – here are some frequently asked questions !
What is a shoulder sling?
A shoulder sling is a form of bracing commonly used for injuries of the upper limb. It is often prescribed by practitioners to reduce movement at the shoulder, elbow and wrist following fractures, dislocations, rotator cuff repairs, shoulder reconstructions or sprains. The sling can be used with or without the body strap dependent on the injury type and severity. In some circumstances, the sling will have an abduction pillow to alter the degree of rotation at the shoulder joint following surgical intervention. The shoulder sling should be fitted dependent on the size of your arm to ensure adequate support. There is a video at the bottom of the page demonstrating correct fitting.
How long do I have to wear it for?
This will depend on a range of factors and will be different for everyone. The type and severity of injury will dictate your guidelines prescribed by the practitioner. If you need clarification on how long you need to wear the sling, please contact your physiotherapist or treating practitioner.
Can I take it off?
When you are able to take the sling off entirely depends on the injury type and severity. Some shoulder injuries/surgeries will permit time out of the sling in a supported environment to maintain range of motion through the wrist and elbow. You should consult your Physiotherapist or treating specialist to determine what is appropriate for you.
Do I have to sleep in the sling?
Sleeping in the sling is recommended to ensure appropriate healing and avoid aggravation of symptoms. Sleep is an important aspect of rehab and forms around a 3rd of our day, hence it is integral that the ankle range is controlled during this time. Additionally, we move around a lot whilst we sleep and therefore the sling will help control any twisting that may increase pain or swelling. Although it may be a little difficult to sleep in, utilising pillows and ensuring appropriate sleep hygiene will help assist in getting a good nights sleep. In some instances, your therapist or specialist may recommend sleeping without the sling this choice should not be made independently.
Can I take the sling off to shower?
This will ultimately depend on your injury guidelines, but most often, you will be able to take it off to shower. Maintaining shower safety is vital as a fall during this time would be extremely detrimental to recovery. Dependent on the injury and rehabilitation guidelines, you may be able to passively lift the arm to clean the armpit. This will depend on the range of motion PERMITTED by your specialist or Physiotherapist. If you have a forearm or wrist fracture that requites a cast, it is not recommended to get the arm wet. If you need to keep the sling on at all times, using wipes or plastic covers can be effective.
My sling does not feel right what should I do?
If your sling feels too tight or loose it is important to contact your physiotherapist to ensure it has been fitted properly. A sling that is fitted incorrectly can impact optimum healing of the injured tissue, this may lead to increased pain, swelling or worse outcomes. Additionally, if the sling is too tight pressure injuries or skin irritation can occur which may have further complications. If your skin becomes sore, red, itchy please contact your treating practitioner.
Can I wear clothes or compression items underneath the sling?
Yes it is recommended to wear clothing underneath the sling. The capacity for the sling to stabilise the shoulder/limb will not be affected by wearing clothing underneath.
This video below demonstrates the correct fitting of a shoulder sling. They should be individually fitted based on the size of your foot and lower limb under the guidance of a Physiotherapist.