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A group of tendons and muscles, rotator cuff surrounds the shoulder joint and helps in keeping the bone firmly in the shoulder socket.

The rotator cuff is essential for the proper movement of the hand. Injury or overuse can cause the rotator cuff to tear. A rotator cuff injury causes a dull ache in the shoulder which worsens over time.

Treatment of rotator cuff injury involves surgical repair. It is done with shoulder arthroscopy or large incision and also includes several smaller incisions.

Once the repair is done, a postoperative sling is prescribed to be worn for a period to provide support to the shoulder and prevent the shoulder from moving. The length of time in sling depends on the severity of the injury and the surgery.

While wearing a sling is pretty simple, wearing the sling improperly can result in delayed healing, or worsen the injury further.

This article looks at ways to properly wear the sling, and common mistakes made while wearing the sling.

Wearing A Sling Properly

Once a sling has been prescribed, it becomes imperative that the sling is worn correctly.

Proper wearing helps in preventing blood and fluids from accumulating in hand and wrist. It also ensures adequate healing.

The Steps

1. Reach and gently pull the sling over the arm and elbow. The sling should fit appropriately over the elbow. Your hand has to sit at the end of the sling. Ensure that it does not cut the hand or wrist. If it does, then the sling is small.

2. Grab the strap present behind the elbow. Pull the strap towards the back of the neck and pass it through the loop present near the hand.

3. Tighten the straps to ensure that the hand, as well as the forearm, are above the elbow level. This helps in the prevention of fluids and blood from pooling in the wrists and hands.

4. Use Velcro fasteners to fasten the strap. You can also put a small terry cloth under the belt for added comfort around the neck.

Certain slings have straps that allow the elbow to be kept close to the body. If your sling has it, pull the strap around the back and fasten it near your hand.

It is important to make sure that the strap is not very tight. A properly fitting sling should allow placement of two or even three fingers between the sling strap and the body.

Some Common Mistakes

Despite proper guidance, people tend to commit some common mistakes while wearing a shoulder sling.

As noted above, improper use of the sling can result in delayed healing and other complications. Ask the physical therapist to help you avoid these mistakes.

Too Loose

Sometimes, the sling is very loose. If the sling does not support the shoulder, elbow, hand, and wrist, it will place unnecessary strain and stress on the arm.

To address it, make sure that while wearing the sling, it gives proper support to the arm and forearm. The elbow should be kept in a 90-degree position. If the elbow is straight, then sling might become loose.

Too Tight

There are cases where the sling becomes too tight. A tight sling can result in the restriction of blood flow in the elbow and hand. This results in tissue getting deprived of oxygen, which invariably results in damage to arm, hand and even fingers.

If you have a numb sensation or have any swelling or tingling or hand feeling cold or bluish fingers, check with your therapist and adjust the sling.

Arm Hanging Low

You should make sure that while wearing the shoulder sling, the arm should not hang very low.

A low hanging arm places increased weight and undue strain and stress on the shoulder. Also, there is an increased risk of your hand falling out of the sling.

While wearing the sling, make sure that the elbow is kept at a 90-degree angle, and the sling fits snugly and provides enough support against the body without raising it.

If you are not sure about the sling, ask your physical therapist to check it, and make necessary adjustments.

Not Enough Exercise

One of the biggest mistake that many do is not exercising the neighboring muscles. Sling is used for protecting the hand and shoulder.

Just because you have a sling, it does not mean that the nearby muscles of the hand and arm do not get adequate exercise.

Since the sling is intended to immobilize your shoulder, it results in decreased strength and range of motion of your arm, and steps should be taken to address it.

During the recovery phase, your doctors will advise you to remove the sling and do gentle no-impact exercises (pendulum circle) at least twice or thrice a day to ensure joint mobility.

Doctors can also prescribe handgrip exercises to create resistance, which helps in improving wrist and forearm strength.

Conclusion

Let’s accept it. Wearing a sling is not common and can result in anxiety with all the contraptions. However, with practice, you can comfortably wear the sling to help in proper healing of your shoulder.

Do not hesitate to inform your doctor or physical therapist in case of any discomfort.

Once the shoulder has healed, consult with your physical therapist, and learn exercises that can help in improving the strength and range of motion of the shoulder. This will help you in reaching your pre-injury status.