Arm slings are commonly used to immobilize, support and protect the arm or shoulder following an injury to the shoulder, upper arm, forearm or wrist. Slings are available to buy in a range of shapes and fabrics, but it is relatively easy to make a temporary triangle-type arm sling using a square or rectangular piece of cloth. Always care for wounds and apply a splint, if needed, before attempting to fit a sling.
Find a suitable square of fabric. If you don’t have a piece of cloth that is large enough, improvise with a pillowcase, sheet, bandana or towel. You can even use a shirt or coat.
Fold a cloth square in half to form a triangle. You can also cut a rectangular piece of cloth into a square before folding it, or cut the cloth into a triangle that doesn't require folding.
Have the patient support their injured arm so the forearm is roughly level. Slip one half of the triangle up and behind the injured person’s arm so the top point of the triangle (opposite the hypotenuse) is at their elbow, and their wrist lies along the middle of the triangle's bottom edge (the hypotenuse). Bring the loose end of that same side of the triangle up and over the shoulder opposite the injured arm and around the back of the neck toward the injured arm.
Bring the remaining loose end of the triangle straight up to meet the first loose end, and tie the two ends together at the side of the neck (nearest the injured arm). The sling should cradle the injured arm, with the elbow forming a right angle and the hand slightly higher than the elbow.
Twist or cinch up the loose fabric behind the elbow to form a pocket that covers and supports the elbow. Secure the fabric with a safety pin or by tucking it into itself.
Seek professional medical help immediately if there is a dislocation, broken bone(s) or severe bleeding.
Do not attempt to realign an injured limb unless the skin looks pale or blue or there is no pulse.
Loosen or adjust the bandage if the person’s skin becomes cool, turns pale or blue, or if the patient complains of numbness or tingling. This could be a sign of nerve pressure or loss of circulation.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment.