Living with a sling or splint
Following most operations on the upper limb, you will return from the operation theatre wearing a sling or a temporary splint. The type of sling / splint will depend on the treated joint and the nature of the operation you have had.
After most operations the sling / splint is mainly for postoperative comfort and should be discarded as soon as possible. The postoperative splint is usually a temporary plaster slab to support treated joint(s). This plaster slab on the wrist or hand may be converted to a thermoplastic removable splint after a few days.
If an operation has been performed to repair the rotator cuff or stabilise the shoulder joint, then the sling will be attached to a body belt. It will need to be worn at all times in the initial weeks and at night for 6 weeks. The physiotherapist will show you how to wear the sling before you are discharged from the hospital.
It is important that you loosen your splint / sling a few times a day and exercise the other (non-operated) joints. This will prevent stiffness in these joints.
There are certain everyday activities that you will have difficulty with and will need to prepare for:
- If you have been asked to wear the splint / sling all the time you will need assistance to wash the other unoperated arm, as you will not be able to do so with the operated arm.
- You will find it easier to dress with front opening clothes, as getting dressed will become tricky. Always dress your operated arm first by sliding it into the shirt or top first. You can then use the other arm to bring you shirt / top from behind your back.
- Activities that need pushing up (i.e. getting up from a chair or out of the bath) will become difficult. You will need to use the unoperated arm for such activities.
- If you usually hold on to a banister to go up and down stairs, you may find it difficult to do so if the banister is on the operated side. You may need assistance.
- If possible, sleep in a semi-sitting position or lie on your back with a pillow under your operated arm for support. Sleeping will be uncomfortable if you lie on the operated side following surgery and is not recommended.