Proper Positioning of the Shoulder Sling

Patients will occasionally need to wear a shoulder sling after rotator cuff repair surgery, shoulder arthroscopy, shoulders dislocation or instability, or a shoulder, elbow or wrist fracture. However, it is imperative to the healing process that the shoulder sling be positioned properly on the body. The sling should also be put on and taken off in the correct manner.

The images below show how the sling should be positioned on your body:





How to put on a sling:

1.  Gently rest your affected arm on a table or counter. Using your uninjured arm, place the sling on your involved arm. Be careful to keep it as relaxed as possible.  The sling should fit snugly and comfortably around your elbow. It should also come to the very end of your arm without cutting off your wrist or hand.

2.  Reach for the neck strap and place it behind your head. Fasten the straps if they are not already fastened and pull the loop tight enough so that your hand and wrist are above elbow level. This prevents blood and fluid from pooling in your hand and wrist. Your hand should be placed slightly higher than your navel.

3.  Stand up and reach for the back strap by leaning towards your uninvolved side. Reach behind your back with your uninvolved arm to grab the strap. Fasten this strap near your involved hand so that it is snug. You should still be able to place 2-3 fingers comfortably between the strap and your body.

4.  In some instances you may need to wear an abduction pillow (which moves your shoulder away from your body) with your sling. This allows your muscles and tendons to heal in an optimal position and avoid excessive tension on healing tissues. The pillow should be kept underneath your breast line, and should be worn at all times unless otherwise stated by your doctor.

How to take off sling:

1. Gently rest your involved arm on a table or counter and loosen the straps.

2. Pull the pocket end off your elbow and slide the sling off your elbow and wrist

References: Effect of shoulder abduction ankle on biomechanical properties of the repaired rotator cuff tendons with 3 types of double row technique.  Mihata T, Fukuhara T, Jun BJ, Watanabe C, Kinoshita M.  Am J Sports Med. 2011 Mar; 39 (3): 551-6 doi:10