Most people are familiar with arm slings – they are commonly recommended for soft tissue injuries of the arms, elbows, wrists and hands, as well as for people recovering from broken bones and other issues. Arm slings are a type of upper-limb orthotics that provide stability and support while limiting mobility to an acceptable level to promote optimal healing. Shoulder immobilizers limit mobility even more than arm slings – by keeping the arm close to the body. These upper-limb orthotics are commonly recommended for rotator cuff disorder or as a post-operative solution to limit mobility.
While arm slings and shoulder immobilizers are designed to help you heal, it can feel very frustrating to wear one, particularly if it limits the movement of your dominant hand during daily tasks. It is important to remember that your doctor has recommended upper-limb orthotics because it is what your body needs at the time. Typically, shoulder immobilizers are used for a shorter amount of time, and it is important that you follow your doctor’s instructions about how long to wear yours.
If you are using a shoulder immobilizer, keep these things in mind to maximize healing and minimize discomfort and further injury:
- Make sure your orthotic fits property and that you adjust it properly each time you put it on. Ask your orthotist if you aren’t sure.
- Plan for activities that may require help from someone else – like bathing and getting dressed. Many people find that shirts that open in the front are much easier to use.
- Consider how you will sleep – particularly if you will wear your immobilizer at night.
- If you will use it for a significant period, consider having 2 orthotics, so you can switch them out regularly for cleaning.