Carpal Surgery Recovery Period

carpal surgery recovery

The carpal surgery recovery period

You’re probably reading this because you’re thinking of having carpal tunnel surgery. Maybe you’ve already seen a carpal tunnel doctor. By now you might be wondering about carpal tunnel surgery recovery. First, I congratulate you in being your own health advocate. Second, learning as much as you can about this procedure is important. Therefore, I’m honored help you by shedding more light on it.

What carpal surgery involves

Doctors advise many patients who have carpal tunnel syndrome to undergo surgery. The aim of the surgery is cutting a ligament deep inside your wrist. That ligament squeezes the wrist bones closer together. This also squeezes the tissues inside. Thus, in theory, cutting it “should” relieve symptoms. Whether you have endoscopic or open release surgery, the procedure is relatively short, usually less than 30 minutes. However, recovery time can take a long, depending on several factors.

Carpal surgery recovery depends on you

After the operation, you will begin hand rehabilitation. You should discuss your carpal surgery recovery time and rehabilitation program with the surgeon. Moreover, do this well before you finalize the day of the operation. And discuss the type of operation you will have.

The open release type of surgery requires a 2-3 inch cut on your palm. The endoscopic type requires one or two holes in the hand. In both cases, a thick band of tissue is sliced deep inside the wrist joint. As a result, the hand to weaken. Hence, restoring hand function depends mostly on the surgery type and how well you heal.

Recovery room

When the doctor finishes applying the stitches and bandages to your hand, you are taken to the carpal tunnel surgery recovery room. There you will likely see other patients coming out of hand surgery. At that time, a doctor or recovery nurse specialist will see you. They will help with any problems you have. In particular, they will monitor you for:

  • severe pain
  • difficulty breathing
  • unusual bleeding

If you had general anesthesia, you may shiver in the recovery room. Consequently, the doctor or nurse will give you a medicine to stop the trembling. Also, they may apply a warm blanket to make you feel better. Most people who have general anesthesia will feel nausea in the carpal surgery recovery room. This is a result of the medicines and is perfectly normal. However, it will subside on its own. You will also get pain medicines to dull the pain because (whichever surgery you had) your hand will hurt.

You will be in the recovery room until the surgeon says you are well enough to go home. Of course, if you feel unusual tell the doctor or nurse. In general, from the time you enter the carpal tunnel surgery recovery room to when you leave takes two to four hours. This depends on whether you had local or general anesthesia, and what kind of anesthesia you had.

sleep with hand raised

Carpal surgery recovery period after discharge

Upon discharge from the surgical center or hospital, you will get several paper instructions. They describe how to take care of the surgical wound at home. Indeed, be sure to follow those instructions! They will outline the kinds of things you can and cannot do for the next few weeks. For instance, the instructions include which pain medicines to take, when you can drive a car, etc.. Some limitations will seem hard, like bathing. However, it’s all done to help the healing process.

The pain will be intense in the first few days, however medicines will help. Pain medicine usage decreases as the pain decreases. Generally, that takes 1-2 weeks. In particular, make sure you keep your hand elevated above heart level for the first few days. This will reduce swelling and additional pain. Indeed, you will probably need to sleep with your hand on a pillow.

Recovery and rehabilitation

Rehabilitation of the hand should start within the week of the surgery. It’s intended to keep your joint from freezing up. In general, the first steps will be to move your fingers. The doctor will give you detailed instructions on what to do. In fact, most patients enter a scheduled program with a hand therapist. As a matter of fact, studies show these patients get the best long-term carpal tunnel surgery recovery results.

After about two weeks you will have a follow-up visit with the surgeon. At that time, the stitches come off. In addition, you will probably get a hand brace to wear all the time. You will wear it for at least another 3-4 weeks during the carpal tunnel surgery recovery period. Also, the staff will provide instructions to perform more involved exercises. Begin gradually and work up to more intense hand activities gradually over the next 1-2 months.


The time you spend in carpal tunnel surgery recovery depends mainly on a few factors. First, both short term and long term recovery depends on the type of surgery you have (open release or endoscopic). All around, open release surgery will take longer to recover from. Also, whether or not you have complications will impact the recovery time. Your dedication to rehab and hand therapy will make a big difference in the long run. It specifically dictates how well you can restore hand and finger strength. Finally, your general health and speed of healing impact overall recovery time.

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Good luck with whatever you decide to do. Remember, we’re here for you. It’s fine to call us up just to pick our brains!