How To Apply a Shoulder Sling

A sling is used to support an injured part of your body. It is meant to immobilize the injured body part. An arm or shoulder that is fractured or dislocated will greatly benefit from a shoulder sling. Learning how to make and apply a shoulder sling is easy; there is no need to take a first aid class.

Making and applying a shoulder sling

  • Get a piece of cloth. The width should be roughly 5 feet. The sides should be approximately 3 feet in length. A smaller sized cloth can be used for children. If you have a bandana, you can use this instead.
  • Make a triangle out of the cloth. Hold one corner of the cloth and put it on top of the opposite corner diagonally. A triangle should form. You can also get your trusty scissors (one that can easily cut a cloth) and cut a triangular piece from the original square cloth.
  • Gently position the injured person’s elbow on the top of the triangle where the apex is located. The wrist should be positioned midway at the bottom of the triangle’s edge.
  • Get the two end points of the triangle. One should go over the shoulder from the front and the other should come up from the back going towards the shoulder.
  • Secure these two points. Use a pin to secure them together or you can make a knot using both ends. The elbow should form a right angle so make sure to adjust the height and the knot accordingly.

Things to remember:

  • If the injury requires a splint, make sure to place the splint first before putting on the shoulder sling.
  • Check the skin color as well as the pulse of the injured person after he has worn the shoulder sling for a few minutes. Loosen the shoulder sling (and splint if present) if you notice that the area has turned pale, blue or is cool to the touch. Ask the injured person if he feels any tingling sensation or numbness in the area. Loosen the shoulder sling immediately.
  • You can further immobilize the injured side by tying the shoulder sling with another piece of cloth (or other materials) around the chest.
  • Other items can be used to create a temporary shoulder sling. Bed sheets, blankets or other large pieces of fabric will do. Belts, ropes as well as vines can also function as temporary shoulder slings.
  • Always check for tightness, numbness, tingling and changes in color, temperature and pulse in the injured area.
  • Have the injury checked by a qualified physician as soon as possible especially when the bone is visible or there is bleeding.

One of the things you learn in a first aid class is how to make and apply a shoulder sling. A shoulder sling can help prevent further injuries to a person who has a dislocated or broken shoulder. Even if you are not required to know first aid techniques, being able to apply a shoulder sling can be useful in case the need for one arises.


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