Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

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Shoulder Injury Wound Care

Minor cuts, abrasions and puncture wounds associated with a shoulder injury can often be treated at home.

Initial care includes:

  • Control bleeding with direct pressure.
    • Use a gauze or clean cloth directly on the wound.
    • Maintain the pressure for at least 10 minutes.
    • Do not keep looking at the wound.
  • Clean the wound with mild soap and water. Running water can help remove dirt.
  • You may gently dab the wound with hydrogen peroxide to remove clotted blood or debris. Do not scrub or re-injure the wound.
  • Be sure there is no dirt or other foreign material left in the wound.
  • A butterfly bandage can be used to close very small, clean cuts.
  • Apply an antibiotic ointment and a dry dressing.
  • Cover the wound with gauze or elastic bandage.
  • Keep the wound clean and dry.
  • Protect and rest the injured skin.
  • Elevate the injured shoulder.

Ongoing care for minor skin wounds includes:
  • Abrasions may be cleaned 2-3 times a day with a mild soap such as dilute baby shampoo, but do not disturb clean, dry scabs.
  • Dry the wound gently, and completely, with a clean towel or gauze.
  • Apply an antibiotic and a dressing as needed.

Tetanus Considerations
Tetanus shots (boosters) can be given up to three days after an injury, as long as you have had all your tetanus shots in the past. A tetanus booster seldom needs to be given right at the time of the wound. This is not an emergency and can be done in the doctor's office or clinic.

A tetanus shot is necessary right away if you have not had three tetanus shots at any time in your life.

You need a tetanus shot within three days for:
  • A dirty wound and you have not had a tetanus shot in the last five years
  • A clean, minor wound and you have not had a tetanus shot in the last ten years

Continue to Shoulder Injury Prevention

Last Updated: Jul 9, 2009 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Shoulder Injury References
  1. Altchek DW, Levinson M.Shoulder injury in the throwing athlete. Phys Med Rehabil Clin N Am. 2000 Nov;11(4):745-54. [11092016]
  2. Moynes DR. Prevention of injury to the shoulder through exercises and therapy. Clin Sports Med. 1983 Jul;2(2):413-22. [969764]
  3. Safran MR. Nerve injury about the shoulder in athletes, part 1: suprascapular nerve and axillary nerve. Am J Sports Med. 2004 Apr-May;32(3):803-19. [15090401]
  4. Wollman S. Patient education series. Sprains and strains. Nursing. 2003 Sep;33(9):47. [14501515]
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