Shoulder Arthroscopy

The Sling If you have a shoulder operation you will almost certainly wake up in a sling. The sling may be needed for anything from 1 to 6 weeks depending on the type of operation you have had. Most patients will need to wear the sling for 6 weeks.

The sling is there to remind you not to move your shoulder and to support the weight of the elbow. Unless I tell you otherwise it must be worn at night as well and only removed for showering. You can make small adjustments the sling as often as you like – please make sure that it supports the weight of the arm and is comfortable. The body strap is not meant to be very tight against your body.

What to wear after shoulder surgery

You are able to wear your sling over your clothes. It is easiest to dress in loose clothing as this will require less arm movement on your part when you are getting dressed. Easiest of all are shirts with buttons down the front but a loose T shirt or singlet with large sleeves will work. Small buttons and zips can be challenging but Velcro fastening is a good option.

Wearing a bra may be uncomfortable initially but will become easier with time. Some patients prefer a strapless or front fastening bra. Pants with elastic waists are easy to take on and off. Doing up buttons, zippers and belts with one hand is quite a challenge. The same applies to shoe laces so sandals, thongs or slip-on and easy fitting shoes are advised.


Putting pants on can be done standing or sitting. There will be some hip wiggling involved but do not use your operated arm. Putting a shirt on is the reverse of undressing. Keep the operated arm still and gently thread the sleeve onto the arm. Take the shirt as far up to the shoulder as possible, keeping the arm still and leaning forward rather than lifting the arm away from the body.

If you are wearing a T-shirt do the head hole next and the other arm last. Once the shirt is on and the buttons done up you can put the sling on as shown in the video above.


The first time you do this will be time consuming but it gets easier with each repetition. The reverse of getting dressed is required:

Taking your pants off is achieved by pulling the pants down past your hips and then sitting down. You can now use your hands or your feet to get them all the way down to your ankles and off. Do not use your operated arm to help.

Once you are undressed you can shower with the waterproof dressings in place. Do not lift the arm forward to wash the armpit. Instead lean forward and let gravity take the arm away from the body. When you stand up the arm will come back against the body. The same applies when drying the armpit. Once you are dressed you may wish to put a cotton cloth in the armpit to absorb any moisture there. This is more important if you are wearing your clothing over the sling.

After the operation

Your shoulder may be swollen after the operation. You will have a bulky dressing on the shoulder to absorb any of the fluid which may leak out overnight. This will be changed to waterproof dressings before you leave hospital.

As part of your anaesthetic the anaesthetist will discuss with you the option of having a nerve block in your neck to help control the pain after the operation. Some time during the night or the next morning the block will start to wear off and you will be able to move your hand and will start to feel your shoulder. There may not be any pain at that stage but this is the time to get some pain killers into your system. This will allow the pain killers to be working when the block wears off and you feel the pain from the operation. If the pain becomes severe it is much harder to get back under control than if you control it well in the first place. Before you go to sleep on the first night I suggest taking some pain killers to get a better nights sleep.

Stay Connected With Us