Physiotherapy advice for wearing a sling
After your injury or surgery you might need to wear a sling. Wearing a sling rests your arm, protects your injury, and might help to reduce pain.
Your doctor will tell you how long you should wear the sling. Before you leave hospital, you will be shown how to wear the sling by a member of the physiotherapy team.
You might have some pain in your arm. We recommend you take the advised painkillers to manage this. Never take more than the recommended amount (dose).
Posture is the way you sit, stand or move. It is important to maintain correct posture while wearing your sling as it might help to ease your pain.
Try to avoid slumping or rounding your shoulders when you are standing and sitting, as this can increase the stress placed on your shoulder.
Your physiotherapist will advise you on exercises to do that are specific to you and your injury. These exercises might include moving uninjured joints in your arm.
We recommend that you do neck exercises to avoid your neck becoming stiff while wearing a sling. These exercises involve moving your neck in all directions:
- up and down
- left and right (by looking over each shoulder)
- side to side (by ear-to-shoulder movements)
It is important you wear your sling in bed for the recommended time, unless you are told otherwise.
We recommend you sleep on your back or unaffected side. When lying on your back, we recommend using a pillow under your injured arm for support.
When lying on your unaffected side, you can use a pillow under your injured arm for support. A pillow placed behind your back can stop you from rolling onto your injured arm in the night.
If you have any dressings or bandages, it is important for them to stay dry when you wash.
You can remove your sling when bathing or showering, but it is important to keep your arm close to your body to limit any movement.
If you are having a strip wash, we recommend you rest your injured arm on a table while you wash. You might need some help to wash and dress your unaffected arm.
Make sure your skin is dry, especially under your armpit, as this will prevent skin irritation.
While you are wearing a sling, we recommend you wear loose-fitting or front-opening clothes, such as a shirt or blouse, as they are easier to put on and take off.
Make sure you put your injured arm into your clothes first. When you have dressed your upper body remember to place your arm back into the sling.
Wearing a sling continuously can increase the risk of joint stiffness. Your physiotherapist will give you exercises to stop this happening.
You could get an infection if your body cannot fight germs.
Contact your GP if:
- your wound becomes red, hot or inflamed
- your pain gets worse
Go to your nearest A&E as soon as possible, if:
- your wound begins to seep fluid
- you have a high temperature (fever)
You will need a follow-up appointment in the fracture clinic. The doctors will review you before you leave hospital, and tell you when to expect this appointment. You might need other appointments, but details of these will be posted to you.
If you do not receive notification of your fracture clinic appointment within 6 to 8 weeks, please contact your GP.
Resource number: 4215/VER4
Last reviewed: August 2022
Next review due: August 2025