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Shoulder Sprain, Ambulatory Care

A shoulder sprain

happens when a ligament in your shoulder is stretched or torn. Ligaments are the tough tissues that connect bones. Ligaments allow you to lift, lower, and rotate your arm. A shoulder sprain is usually caused by a fall onto your outstretched arm.

Common symptoms include the following:

  • Bruising or changes in skin color
  • Pain and stiffness, especially with movement
  • Swelling and tenderness

Seek immediate care for the following symptoms:

  • Cold or clammy skin
  • Increased pain, even after taking pain medicine
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sudden, sharp chest pain on the same side as your injury
  • Throat tightness or trouble swallowing
  • New or increased trouble moving and using your arm, hand, or fingers

Treatment for a shoulder sprain

may include a support device, such as a brace, sling, or splint. These devices limit movement and protect your joint. Treatment may also include pain medicine, physical therapy, or surgery if the ligament does not heal.

Care for a shoulder sprain:

  • Rest your shoulder for at least 48 hours. Avoid activities that cause pain. Return to normal activities as directed.
  • Apply ice on your shoulder for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.
  • Exercise your shoulder as directed. You will need to do light exercises to decrease shoulder stiffness. Check with your healthcare provider before you return to your normal activities or sports.

When you wear a brace, sling, or splint, do the following:

  • Wear your brace, sling, or splint as directed. You may need to wear it all the time and take it off only to bathe or do exercises. Ask your healthcare provider how long you should wear it.
  • Keep your skin clean and dry. Padding under your armpit will help absorb sweat and prevent sores on your skin.
  • Do not hunch your shoulders. This may cause pain. Keep your shoulders relaxed.
  • Position the sling over your arm and hand so that it also covers your knuckles. This will help the sling support your wrist and hand. Position your wrist higher than your elbow. Your wrist may start to hurt or go numb if your sling is too short.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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 caregivers 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.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.