Carpal tunnel syndrome is painful and sometimes debilitating. When conservative treatments and physical therapy have not helped reduce your discomfort and improve function, you may require carpal tunnel surgery, also called a carpal tunnel release.

During the surgery, our experienced hand surgeon cuts through ligaments pressing down on the carpal tunnel, making more room for the nerve and tendons to pass through and improving pain and function. Recovery and rehabilitation after carpal tunnel surgery can take weeks, but full function may take one year to achieve.

What Can I Expect During Recovery?

After surgery, you will receive detailed instructions on how to care for yourself and the incisions. This care helps reduce the risk of infection and helps the surgical site heal well. You should rest when you feel tired since getting enough sleep will help your body heal.

For up to two weeks after the surgery, you must avoid lifting anything more than one to two pounds or doing repeated movements, such as using a keyboard, vacuuming, or chopping food. You must also avoid any activity that causes vibration, such as using power tools.

It is important to walk in the first days and weeks after surgery. This helps to improve circulation and keep you active. When you had a carpal tunnel release on your dominant hand, it may take up to eight weeks to return to work.

Repeated motions, like working on an assembly line or typing can further damage the area. You typically return home on the same day as surgery, and the full timeline for recovery and rehabilitation depends on the severity of your symptoms, the extent of the surgery, and your overall health.

What Is Rehabilitation and Why Is It Important?

Rehabilitation is necessary after carpal tunnel surgery to restore function, prevent complications, and enhance recovery. It also helps manage pain and swelling, which are relatively common after a carpal tunnel release.

There are several components to rehabilitation for carpal tunnel surgery. Physical therapy strengthens the wrist and hand muscles, promotes flexibility, and restores your range of motion. You may also work with an occupational therapist who focuses on helping you return to your daily activities and job-related tasks.

Recovery may include making ergonomic adjustments to prevent any further pain and swelling. Patient education can help you learn about hand mechanics and the importance of posture and activities to prevent a recurrence of the condition. Rehabilitation is essential as it ensures the success of surgery and helps you achieve the best possible outcome.

What to Expect During Rehabilitation

During recovery and rehabilitation after carpal tunnel surgery, you will receive instructions on wrist and hand exercises that are customized to your situation and help you achieve a better range of motion, strength, and grip. You must do the exercises correctly and as often as your physical therapist instructs to get the best results.

Most people wear splints for up to two weeks after surgery. After the splint is removed, you may begin physical therapy. Your progress will depend on your age, pre-existing health conditions, such as arthritis, and how closely you follow the post-operative instructions.

One exercise you may be asked to do is thumb and finger touches, which improve your coordination in everyday tasks. To perform this exercise, hold your open palm up and touch each fingertip to your thumb, starting at the index finger and working through to the pinky before returning. Completing this process three to five times in each direction helps improve coordination and movement.

Wrist bends can help increase flexibility and break up any developing scar tissue. Begin by extending your arm away from your body with your wrist flexed at 90°. Use your other hand to pull the wrist back by the fingers lightly and hold that for 10 to 30 seconds.

Wrist curls move the wrist in the opposite direction. Using a light weight prescribed by your physical therapist, curl your wrist up and let the weight fall back. Another finger motion exercise engages muscles that spread the fingers apart. Hold your hand with your fingers together and slowly spread the fingers apart before moving them back together again.

Your physical therapist will tell you how many times and how often to perform these exercises. As you get stronger, you may begin to do some of these exercises in a large bowl of rice, which provides additional resistance.

Learn More About Recovery and Rehabilitation After Carpal Tunnel Surgery

Recovery and rehabilitation after carpal tunnel surgery are critical to regaining your range of motion, strength, and mobility. It is not enough to do the surgery and relieve the pain. Without rehabilitation, you may never regain your hand function.

We encourage you to call and schedule your consultation to learn more about carpal tunnel surgery and what happens during recovery and rehabilitation.

Comprehensive Hand Surgery
Phone(804) 506-3050
2819 North Parham Road Richmond Suite 100, VA 23294 Get Directions