Carpal tunnel surgery is a routine procedure used to treat carpal tunnel syndrome, an overuse condition that develops from performing repetitive movements or a genetic disposition. The carpal tunnel consists of the transverse carpal ligament on top of the wrist and the wrist bones below. When tissues in this area swell, they put pressure on the median nerve, leading to numbness and pain. Symptoms tend to worsen over time.
Often referred to as carpal tunnel release, surgery offers an opportunity for relief from the symptoms. The surgeon cuts through the ligament applying pressure on the carpal tunnel, creating additional room for the tendon and median nerves.
How to Take Care of Your Hand After Carpal Tunnel Surgery
Most patients wear a splint or heavy bandage for up to two weeks after surgery. You may need to have a follow-up appointment to remove the dressing.
If your hand is in a splint following the surgery, you should be sure to move your fingers periodically to combat stiffness. To reduce the swelling in your hand after surgery, you may have to keep your hand elevated while you sleep.
Following the removal of the splint, it’s time to begin physical therapy. You’ll engage in motion exercises to strengthen your wrist and hand, though you may still have to occasionally use the splint when your hand hurts.
Your surgeon may restrict your activities for some time after the surgery. For instance, if your work involves typing, you may have to stay home for a while or modify your work. How you progress after surgery depends on a number of factors, including:
- Health and the presence of preexisting conditions, such as arthritis.
- How well you listen to the surgeon’s instructions.
You will see immediate progress soon after the surgery, but it could be three months to a year before you realize all the benefits of the procedure. Grip strength returns about three months afterward, and you can begin participating in sports about two months later as long as you don’t experience a lot of pain.
Pain and Numbness After Carpal Tunnel Surgery
Your surgeon usually bandages your hand following carpal tunnel surgery. You may notice it feels numb, a sensation that comes and goes. It could also feel tingly before becoming numb.
It’s normal to feel some pain or discomfort following carpal tunnel surgery. Your hand may feel pain for several weeks afterward. If it persists for longer than that, you should talk to your doctor. Your surgeon may prescribe medicine to help you with the pain, and you can also ice the area to reduce swelling.
Driving After Carpal Tunnel Surgery
You can resume driving once you have regained the full functionality of your hand. You need to be able to react quickly when you drive, and if your hand still hurts, your reaction time may be compromised.