Carpal Tunnel Surgery Aftercare

carpal tunnel surgery aftercare

Carpal tunnel surgery aftercare considerations

You’re probably wondering what will happen after you have carpal tunnel surgery. Who wouldn’t! It’s a major step in your life and you’ll feel more comfortable knowing what to expect, and when. You should know that doctors use the term carpal tunnel surgery aftercare loosely. They usually mean it’s the time you go home and recover from the carpal tunnel release surgery.

Depending on how fast you heal and how well you manage the surgical pain (yes, there WILL be pain), aftercare is relatively simple. But this assumes you have no complications. These include delayed reaction to the anesthesia, bleeding, infection or nerve damage. Any of those can make the carpal tunnel surgery aftercare much more complicated. For the purposes of this article let’s be upbeat. We’ll assume all goes well and you’ll make a successful carpal tunnel surgery recovery.

First weeks of carpal tunnel surgery aftercare

When you go home from the operation, and for the next 2 weeks until the stitches are removed, you must be careful to treat the surgical area with tender, loving care. Take precautions to avoid bumping or banging your hand into things. Even while you hand is in bandages, doing so can easily rip your stitches open. Then you have to go back to the doctor and start the clock from the beginning.

Also, be sure to elevate your hand as often as you can. Elevate higher than your heart’s level because this will reduce swelling in the fingers and also reduce the pain in the wrist area. Avoid vigorous activities, and try to limit movements to small motions like brushing your teeth, combing your hair, feeding yourself and dressing. Of course, it’s good to wiggle your fingers periodically so they don’t stiffen. But don’t over-do it! When bathing, keep the dressing dry. Wear a loose fitting rubber glove (most people prefer a plastic trash bag) on your hand and arm when showering.

Finally, your doctor will have given you a prescription for pain medication for the first few days. Follow those instructions to avoid pain! But after about 4-5 days you should be able to manage any pain with over the counter medications for carpal tunnel syndrome. These include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol). By the time you return to the hospital in about 2 weeks to remove the stitches and bandages, any pain you had should be a lot less. At that point, you will graduate to wearing a wrist brace for the remainder of your carpal tunnel surgery aftercare. Also at this point, you will be able to drive a car safely.

First month of carpal tunnel surgery aftercare

What a relief – those stitches and bandages are gone! Your patience has paid off. But you have:

  • a tenderness in the wrist
  • an itchy scar
  • pain gripping or pinching

These things are completely normal and will lessen in the next few weeks. You can try gently massaging the scar and surrounding skin with vitamin C cream.

In this period of carpal tunnel surgery aftercare, most patients report reduced grip and pinch strength. This is also normal, and at first it will be too painful to grip or pinch firmly. That’s why you must do this slowly and work up to harder gripping motions. If you don’t have nerve damage as a result of the surgery, grip and pinch strength should be back to normal in 3 months.

This is also the time to begin hand therapy after carpal tunnel surgery. Stretching, strengthening, and range of motion exercise are all part of the physical therapy your hand will need. The surgeon will give you instructions for all of these. You will also do more vigorous activities with your hand. During this period of carpal tunnel surgery aftercare most patients can return to work.

sleep with hand raised

Final months

The final period of your carpal tunnel surgery aftercare can last for 2-12 months. This depends on you, including your ability to heal and the amount of effort you put into rehabilitation and strengthening your hand. If the job doesn’t require a lot of manual work, then returning to the job will be relatively easy – but you may need to take short breaks to for hand rests. Of course, this assumes you experienced no complications.

Finally – and this may sound odd – but pay special attention to your job function. That’s because carpal tunnel syndrome is an occupational disease. That means the job probably caused the condition. High-risk jobs that require a lot of forceful and repetitive hand movements are main causes of this condition. Examples are hairdressing, file clerking, construction, assembly line work, music, and farming. Occupation is such a major issue in carpal tunnel that the National Institutes of Health report that only 23% of patients who had carpal tunnel surgery returned to their former job. Recognizing whether or not your job caused the condition (and whether or not you should continue with it) is a critical aspect of good carpal tunnel surgery aftercare.

Summary:

From the time you leave the surgical center to when your hand is restored can take months to years. The time all depends on several factors. These include the type of surgery you have, your commitment to rehab, whether or not you had complications, and your own general health.

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Good luck with whatever method you decide to use to treat your carpal tunnel syndrome. Remember, we’re here for you. It’s fine to call us up just to pick our brains!