Proper Sling Use

After having surgery on your shoulder you may be asked to wear a sling for anywhere from 6-10 weeks. You may wonder how to use an arm sling or how to properly wear an arm sling. Most slings will have a strap going around your neck, a strap going around your abdomen, and an abductor pillow to keep your arm in a neutral position at your side. When slings are worn improperly they place the shoulder in an unnatural position and force it to carry the load of the arm. This can have many negative effects on your recovery including increased pain, difficulty regaining range of motion, and adding strain on the repair that was done on your shoulder. Proper sling use can be a vital part of the recovery process following a shoulder injury. Following these tips can help you wear your sling correctly and prevent complications while recovering from your shoulder surgery.

JOI Explains Proper Sling Use

One of the most important aspects of proper sling use is to ensure that the sling is holding the entire weight of your arm. You should never raise your shoulder to move your arm while wearing the sling as the muscles and tendons of the shoulder will be very sensitive following your procedure. Make sure your forearm is flat in the sling and parallel with the ground. Also, keep the elbow positioned as far back as it will go in the sling to make sure the whole sling is carrying the load of your arm. A good check for this to make sure that the end of the sling goes up to the edge of your hand so that only your fingers are exposed.

Another important aspect of proper sling use is to make sure your arm is in a neutral position at your side. Your upper arm should remain directly to your side and in line with the rest of your body. At the same time it is important to keep your forearm at a 45° angle in relation to your hip. Ensuring that your arm is not positioned too far in front of or behind you can help reduce the strain on your shoulder and thus resulting in less pain overall. 


Bad Sling Positioning

  • In this picture the patient's over arm strap is too loose resulting in the forearm not being parallel to the ground.  This results in the shoulder carrying some of the weight of the arm.  Also, the patient's arm is too far back resulting in an unnatural position of the shoulder.

Image of improper sling use

   

Bad Sling Positioning

  • In this picture the patient is not demonstrating proper sling use as the patient's arm is not all the way into the sling as noted by the elbow not being located at the back of the sling.  Also, the patient's arm is located too far in front of his body leaving it in an unnatural position.

Image of man in sling

   

Correct Sling Position

  • In this picture the patient is demonstrating proper sling use. It is at his side with his forearm parallel with the ground.  Also, his elbow positioned all the way into the sling with just his fingers exposed.

Image of proper sling use

   

The Jacksonville Orthopedic Institute has many other articles about the shoulder which may be interesting to you.  Here is a link to one of them. http://www.joionline.net/trending/content/5-shoulder-symptoms-you-cannot-ignore or about our new waterproof cast or splint


By: Matt Paulus, MS, ATC 

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