When can I take off my shoulder sling after rotator cuff repair shoulder surgery?

by | Mar 14, 2022 | Shoulder Pain

Every surgeon will have a very specific post surgical protocol and instructions telling you exactly what you are allowed to do and not allowed to do after surgery.

Most surgeons will require you to wear your shoulder sling after rotator cuff repair shoulder surgery for between 4 and 6 weeks.

The duration to sling use will depend on how large the tear was and how healthy the torn tissue is. Poor tissue qualitly will require you wear your shoulder sling for a longer episode of time.

How do I position my shoulder sling after rotator cuff repair surgery?

The most common sling used after a rotator cuff repair shoulder surgery includes an abduction pillow, neck and shoulder strap, and waist strap.

Below is an image of a Breg Atlas Universal Shoulder Sling (Universal) by Breg Braces. 

My favorite shoulder sling includes the “Y” shaped shoulder strap you see in the image above. This “Y” shaped shoulder strap helps to take pressure off of the base of your neck. 

Will I remove my shoulder sling to shower?

Yes, you will remove your shoulder sling to shower. Some surgeons may recommend waiting 2 to 3 days after surgery before you take a shower. This often depends on the size of your incision and type of closures used to close the incision.

If you are allowed to shower then you will remove the sling before showing and return the sling after you have towled off and gotten dressed.

Will I sleep in the sling?

Yes. In most cases patients are adviced to sleep in their sling for between 4 and 6 weeks after rotator cuff repair surgery.

Many patients find that sleeping in a recliner is more comfortable than sleeping in a bed for the first two weeks, but after that time many of my patients find sleeping in bed to be more comfortable.

How do I clean my sling?

In most cases your sling will not need to be washed unless you experienced excessive bleeding or drainage. 

If you find that you do need to wash your sling it is usually recommended to hand wash each part of the sling using a mild detergent and allow it to hang dry before wearing it again.

While your sling is being washed and dried it is recommended that you maintain your post surgical precautions an DO NOT USE your surgical arm.

Should I remove my shoulder sling while icing?

No, you may ice while wearing your shoulder sling. If you are using a gel ice pack like the Chattanooga CHT358NK imaged below or a  Ossur Cold Rush Therapy Machine System you would still want to keep your sling on at all times.

Chattanooga CHT358NK Neck Contour Polyurethane Cold Pack, 21-Inch, BlackClick to check availability on Amazon

In the video below I share a real patient experience in fitting a sling properly.

Does insurance pay for a shoulder sling after rotator cuff repair shoulder surgery?

Yes! Most health insurance plans will cover the cost of your shoulder sling. In some cases if you have a high deductible plan your surgery might only have a copay that does not meet the full cost of the deductible. In this case you might be better off buying your own sling instead of having your surgeon’s office bill your insurance.

The most important question to ask your surgeon’s billing department is if the sling is included in the reimbursement of the surgery or if it will be billed as a separate piece of durable medical equipment.

Anthony Maritato, PT

Anthony Maritato, PT

Physical Therapist

Anthony Maritato, PT has been a licensed physical therapist and private practice owner since 2006. Ohio license #PT011602.

Anthony has been passionate about helping patients recover from total knee replacement surgery as well as rotator cuff repair surgery.