After Shoulder Surgery: 4 Tips For Living With A Shoulder Sling

If you're scheduled to undergo shoulder surgery soon, one of the things that will happen after the surgery is that you'll have to wear a sling for several weeks. If you're like most people, this probably doesn't sound like a big deal – you're liable to be more worried about things like pain management and insurance coverage. But once you actually have to go about your daily life with one arm in a sling, you may find that it's harder than you thought it would be. Some advance planning before your surgery can make living with a shoulder sling much easier.

In The Bedroom

Stock up on pillows before the surgery. You're going to have to sleep on your back with your arm in the sling on your chest, and unless you normally sleep in that position, you may find it hard to get used to. Pillows can help. You'll need several to go behind your head and another one or two to support your elbow – this will help your arm stay where it's supposed to. Have a few extra pillows around just in case you need them.

You'll also want to take the time to move you bedside table if it's normally on the side that's having the surgery. You want to make sure that anything you might reach for first thing in the morning – your glasses, the alarm clock, a glass of water – is easily reachable with your good arm.

Getting Dressed

Hopefully, you have ample time off from work to recover from your surgery, so you can dress casually. You'll find it hard to put on a suit or a button-down shirt with one arm immobilized. Chances are that you've never thought about how much of your wardrobe requires two hands to put on, but you're going to have a hard time with things like belts, shoelaces, and buttons.

Make sure that you have some easy clothes ready for your recovery period. Think loose t-shirts, sweatpants, or shorts with an elastic waistband. Flip-flops or slip-on shoes are simple to slide on without needing to use your hands.


Eventually, you'll be able to take the sling off to shower, but in the beginning, you will need to keep it on all the time. Also, you probably won't be able to get the surgical site wet for a while. But you're still going to want to stay as clean as you can. If you don't have one already, invest in a detachable shower head and install it before your surgery. You can hold it with your good hand and aim it at the parts of your body that you can get wet while avoiding your shoulder.


Unless you're a very talented cook, you're going to want ready-made food for at least a little while. Eating with one hand isn't too hard, but cooking is more difficult. Stock up on TV dinners and convenience foods, or cook some dishes ahead of time and freeze them. That way, all you have to do is slide things in and out of the oven or microwave until you're feeling more ready to cook.

These are simple preparations, but thinking of them ahead of time can make a big difference. It's not easy to picture doing everything one-handed until you actually have to do it. Preparing ahead of time can save you a lot of aggravation during a time when you should be concentrating on resting and healing.