How in the world does this sling fit? You just got home from the hospital or surgery center after your shoulder surgery with Dr. Van den Berghe and now you realize that you have so many questions about the very large contraption strapped to your operative arm. How does this fit? Where do all the Velcro attachments go? How should my arm feel in this? Why does my neck hurt? Here are a few tips and tricks for how to make your shoulder or arm sling more comfortable.
The anatomy of a shoulder sling
No matter the brand, most shoulder slings (also called shoulder immobilizers) are very similar in fit and construction. They have 2 major components: an abduction pillow, and a sling that velcro’s to that pillow.
The Abduction Pillow
Let’s start with the abduction pillow: this should be positioned between your forearm and your waist. There is a strap attached to this pillow that goes around the waist and clips to the front of the pillow. The waist strap should be snug, but not so tight as to make it feel hard to breathe deeply or walk comfortably.
TIP: if you can’t find the clip, check the back of the pillow, it could have been put on backwards accidentally at the hospital!
Now lets talk about the sling. This should be positioned on the outside of the pillow so that the pillow rests between your stomach and your forearm. It will have a strap that runs from the back of your elbow, up your back, around your neck, and clips to the sling right above your hand. This strap should be snug enough to support the operative arm.
When this strap is properly tightened, you should be able to relax the shoulder and feel that the sling construct is supporting the arm without having to tighten your shoulder, neck, or back muscles.
TIP: if you feel that the neck strap is too loose, there are Velcro straps at either end that can be tightened as needed (or loosened if the strap feels too tight).
TIP: If your neck is getting sore, the neck strap may be too tight. Try loosening the Velcro just a little bit at a time until you can feel the relief. There is also a small cushion attached to the neck strap. This should be positioned so that it rests between the strap and the side of your neck.
How to make an arm sling more comfortable: Video
One of our preferred shoulder slings by DeRoyal has a helpful how-to video available. Check it out to see our tips in action.
Another of our preferred vendors, Donjoy, has shoulder immobilizer (sling) instructions available online here.
Have additional questions about how to make your arm sling more comfortable?
Kansas City Orthopedic Alliance is here to help. We don’t just want to have a successful surgery; we want to ensure a successful and comfortable recovery, too. If you’re anticipating shoulder surgery, feel free to reach out to us anytime and our highly educated staff will be happy to assist you.