Living with a Shoulder Sling

shoulder slingA shoulder sling is used to support your arm after shoulder surgery. Depending on the procedure(s) performed, you may need to be in a sling for 3-6 weeks following your shoulder operation.

Your doctor or medical professional may alter some of these general guidelines. They know your medical status and it is important to follow their instructions carefully, even if they differ from some of the following guidelines.

1. GETTING WASHED: For the first 3-6 weeks you may need assistance to wash your un-operated arm, as you will not be able to use your operated arm for this. Please remember to keep the surgical wounds dry and protected while washing. Waterproof dressings may be provided by the clinic.

To dry yourself, it may be easier to put a bathrobe on, which will help to dry your un-operated arm.

sling3sling22. GETTING DRESSED: You will find it easier to wear front opening clothes. Always dress your operated arm first. Sit on the edge of a chair or stand with your arm ‘hanging’ by your side. Slide your operated arm into the garment first using your un-operated arm. Do not assist with your operated arm, just let it hang loose. Once this arm is fully in the sleeve bring the garment around your back and put the other arm in. Any fasteners must be fastened only with your un-operated arm. Once you have dressed your upper body, place your arm back in the sling.
sling6By 6 weeks after your operation you be able to return to dressing ‘normally’.

3. FEEDING: You will feed yourself with your un-operated hand only. By 6 weeks after your operation you may return to feeding yourself ‘normally’ using both hands.

4. TRANSFERING: This means getting in and out of your chair, bed and bath and getting on and off your toilet. You must only push up from the bed, chair, toilet and bath using your un-operated arm. After 6 weeks you may return to using both arms as pain allows.

sling 4 pix sling5 pix sling7 pix

5. SLEEPING: For the first 6 weeks your sling should be kept on while you are in bed. You may find it more comfortable to sleep on your back initially, with a pillow under your operated arm for support. You may also find it more comfortable to sleep in a semi-sitting position, as in a recliner.

sling8 pix6. KITCHEN ACTIVITIES: This includes making meals, snacks and drinks for yourself. You must use your non-operated arm for kitchen activities. After 6 weeks, you may return to using both arms.  AVOID LIFTING ANYTHING HEAVY FOR 3 MONTHS. 

7. HOUSEWORK: Light housework may resume after 6 weeks. More strenuous housework should be avoided until 3 months after your operation.

8. STAIRS: When climbing/descending the stairs, hold the banister with your un-operated arm. This may mean that a second banister is required. After 6 weeks you may hold the banister with either arm.


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