The shoulder is made up of four bones – the scapula, acromion, clavicle and sternum. These bones are joint together by ligaments, making up the acromioclavicular joint between the acromion and clavicle, and the sternoclavicular joint between the sternum and clavicle. Most shoulder sprains happens in the acromioclavicular joint, usually caused by accidents in contact sports such as rugby, wrestling and skiing.
When a sprain occurs, the ligaments are stretched or torn. You should seek medical attention immediately and prevent the arm from moving about lest further tearing the ligaments. Once you get home, there are several self-care methods you can use to speed up the recovery.
Rest: The first step you can do is to rest your injured shoulder and avoid moving it so that it can heal. Any movement would risk further damage.
Ice: Wrap an ice pack with a towel and apply it on your injury for 15 to 20 minutes to reduce the pain and swelling. Do this step once every hour for at least three times a day.
Compression: Compressing the shoulder helps to reduce swelling. A sling or cast would give the necessary compression and support.
Elevation: Make sure that you get plenty of bed rest so that you can elevate your shoulder with a pillow. This would help to further reduce the swelling.
2) Wear the sling the right way
You have to keep the sling on at all times except when you bathe. After bathing, putting the sling back on the right way would avoid several problems.
Make sure that the sling is not too tight – Tying it too tightly would cut off the oxygen supply to the arm. An indicator is that the shoulder turns blue or pale with a numbing discomfort.
Ensure that the entire arm is fully dried – Bandanging wet skin would cause sores and irritation. Dry it completely before putting the sling on.
Position your wrist higher than your elbow – Wrap the sling down to your knuckles and keep your wrist slightly tilted above your elbow. This would give better support to your arm and hand. Make sure that the sling is of sufficient length. A sling that is too short would cause pain or numbness in the wrist.
3) Doing light exercises
Doing light exercises after resting for 3 to 7 days helps to prevent stiffness. Start with slowly stretching your arm out and doing small rotations to let it get used to the movement. However, stop the exercises if you feel excessive pain.
4) Preventing injury
Only return to physical activities when the shoulder is fully healed to avoid another injury. Do not strain your shoulder when exercising and stop all activities if the pain recurs. Wear protective equipment and use proper sports techniques to prevent accidents from happening again.