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Shoulder Abduction Pillow

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Aug 31, 2022.

What is a shoulder abduction pillow?

A shoulder abduction pillow is a device used to protect your shoulder after surgery or trauma. Your healthcare provider will teach you about the type of abduction pillow you will use.

Why do I need to wear a shoulder abduction pillow?

A shoulder abduction pillow may be used to prevent your shoulder from turning in toward your body. The abduction pillow will hold your shoulder in an elevated position and help it heal. You may need to use a shoulder abduction pillow after trauma or surgery such as rotator cuff repair. You may need to use a shoulder abduction pillow for several weeks or longer as directed.

What else do I need to know about a shoulder abduction pillow?

You may need a caregiver to help you while you use a shoulder abduction pillow. A caregiver is a family member or friend that helps with your care. Your provider will instruct you to do the following:

  • Care for your skin care as directed. Your caregiver can loosen the straps every 2 to 4 hours and check your skin for sore or red areas. It is important to wash your arm, including your underarms, daily with soap and water. Your provider may prescribe powders or lotions that will prevent skin damage.
  • Do exercises as directed. Your provider may instruct you to remove the pillow for exercise. He or she may ask you to wiggle your fingers once every hour. He or she may also show you how to do range of motion exercises. This will help prevent blood clots and improve blood circulation in your arm. Exercise may prevent you from losing movement and strength in your shoulder.
  • Sleep in a comfortable position. You may find that sleeping in a recliner is more comfortable than in a bed. Keep the abduction pillow in place while you sleep. Do not sleep on your injured shoulder.

What else can I do to care for myself?

You may wear your abduction pillow over your clothes. You can care for yourself by doing the following:

  • Drink more liquids. Liquids help keep your body hydrated and prevent a blood clot in your arm. Ask how much liquid you should drink and which liquids are best for you.
  • Increase your comfort. You may need to decrease pressure from the device's straps on your skin. To do this, insert pillowcases or towels between your skin and the straps.
  • Wear your shoulder abduction pillow at all times. Your pillow will keep your shoulder in one position while it heals. Your provider will tell you when it is safe to remove your shoulder abduction pillow.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.