What to Expect After Carpal Surgery
What to expect after carpal surgery: intro
Having carpal tunnel surgery is not a small matter. It might be your last resort to treat carpal tunnel syndrome. That’s because nothing else helped eliminate the pain, numbness and tingling of this condition. During surgery, the doctor’s aim is to cut a ligament in the lower palm. It holds the wrist bones together in a bundle. By doing so, the wrist area expands open. That relieves pressure on the nerve in between the bones. It sounds simple enough. But it’s a major procedure that requires skill and patience. The carpal tunnel doctor probably went into detail with you about how it works. Unfortunately, most doctors gloss over the part about “after surgery.” That’s why so many people don’t know what to expect after carpal surgery. I’ll explain for you.
What to expect after carpal surgery: (1) pain
Nobody likes pain. That’s why it’s part of every question we hear from patients. So knowing what to expect after carpal surgery with regard to pain is important. Rest assured there will be pain after surgery. However, you won’t feel any pain during the actual operation. You’ll either be asleep or have a local numbing agent in your wrist. It’s when these medicines wear off that pain rears up. In the recovery room you will not feel much pain at all. The pain shot you got while asleep or the local shot in your hand are still working.
When you get home a few hours later, expect the pain to overflow like lava. It’ll be constant and pounding. However, all doctors prescribe pain pills to take on a regular basis. They’re just for this kind of pain. Make sure to fill these prescriptions before you get home. You’ll also need them to help kill the pain while you sleep.
Expect to have this constant pain for the next 3-4 days. By the end of the week, you’ll need the main pills only occasionally. Usually, you need them only to sleep. Moving around the house too much will cause the pain to increase. So take it easy for several days.
What to expect after carpal surgery: (2) hand function
The idea of having surgery is to eliminate the most common symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. And surgery does that pretty quickly in about half of patients. However, the other half take much longer to see good results. Still, others never see much reduction in symptoms, if at all. Furthermore, an unfortunate few see worse symptoms and lasting pain. But this is not what to expect after carpal surgery when things go right.
Therefore, I’ve outlined what happens when good results occur. I’ve also outlined what might occur if a patient gets bad results from surgery.
Good surgical results
So do you know what to expect after carpal surgery when things go right? Specifically, you can expect your hand to slowly return to normal. It usually takes 3-6 months to start seeing good results. That’s assuming you did a good job at hand therapy. Most people can get back to work in that time period. Full hand strength usually returns by about 1 year. Again, that’s assuming you had good therapy. The best results are in patients who put a lot of time into rehab and strength exercises. Such regular therapy is the key to seeing good recovery.
Bad surgical results
There are a fair number of patients who get bad results from surgery. Actually, that comes either from complications or from not doing enough therapy. A smaller number of those patients suffered a failed surgery. That’s when the symptoms simply were not eliminated at all. Others had complications, like infection or nerve injury. However, bad results most often come from poor therapy after surgery. In short, the patients didn’t know what to expect after carpal surgery. They didn’t know that time and energy put into rehab is crucial. Strengthening the hand only comes with a lot of work and effort. As a result, they have weak grip strength. Many have reduced dexterity and range of motion.
The National Institutes of Health measured patient satisfaction after surgery. In fact, this is the best way to tell if a surgery was ‘successful.” That’s because it takes into account how a person’s life is affected. Indeed, the results are distressing. They found that only 50% of surgery patients were satisfied two years later. It’s for that reason the NIH and American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons published a recommendation. They advise patients to try all available non-surgical remedies first. Hence, surgery should be the last option to use.
Your expectations after carpal tunnel surgery depend on several factors. For instance, whether you’re having endoscopic or open release surgery makes a big difference in your recovery time. If there are any complications like infection, scarring or bleeding, your hand function may suffer. Finally, your overall health and ability to heal should be considered as well. All of these issues should be discussed with your doctor. Your doctor should also advise you of all non-surgical options available. It is quite likely you don’t even need hand surgery to eliminate your carpal tunnel symptoms.
Two 15 minute Carpal Rx treatments for 30 days cures symptoms in 97% of carpal tunnel patients.
Those limitations are why I invented the Carpal Rx. It exactly duplicates what a physical therapist does and you use it from the comfort of your home. Two 15 minute treatments for 30 days cures symptoms in 97% of patients.
Good luck with whatever you decide to do. Remember, we’re here for you and it’s fine to call us up just to pick our brains!