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Using a Sling: Care Instructions


A sling supports your forearm. It keeps an injured arm or shoulder from moving.

Some slings, called immobilizers, have a strap that goes around your waist to hold your arm against your body.

Your doctor may have given you a custom sling that holds your arm in a certain position. If not, you can use a ready-made sling from a pharmacy.

But a sling can create problems. Keeping your arm in one position for too long can cause serious problems, such as frozen shoulder. Ask your doctor what you can do to prevent these problems.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • To put a sling on by yourself without using your shoulder, place the sling on a table. Lower your forearm into the sling pocket. Then secure the strap(s).
  • If you are able, you can first strap the sling over your shoulder, then slip your forearm into the sling pocket.
  • Make sure that the sling allows your arm and shoulder to relax.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions for how often to:
    • Take the sling off.
    • Do exercises to prevent problems such as frozen shoulder.
  • If the fingers of the arm in the sling were not injured, wiggle them every now and then. This helps move the blood and fluids in the injured arm.
  • Keep up your muscle strength and tone as much as you can while protecting your injured arm or shoulder. Your doctor may want you to tense and relax the muscles protected by the sling, but only if it's not painful. Check with your doctor or your physiotherapist or occupational therapist for instructions.
  • Use the sling until your doctor tells you that you no longer need it. How long you wear a sling depends on your diagnosis and how you heal.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your pain gets a lot worse.
  • You cannot move your arm.
  • You have tingling, weakness, or numbness in your hand or arm.
  • Your arm or hand turns cold or changes colour.
  • Your sling feels too tight, and you cannot loosen it.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • You have new or worse swelling in your arm.
  • You have new pain that develops in another area of your arm.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.