Carpal tunnel surgery, recovery and healing

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Carpal tunnel surgery, recovery and healing


Peter Amadio, M.D., a Mayo Clinic hand surgeon

Well, it depends a little bit what the procedure was. In an endoscopic procedure, you may be able to do a little bit more in the first few weeks than you can with the open procedure, although all studies suggest that after about a month there's really almost no difference between the two procedures as far as what you can do.

But with either operation, after surgery you're in a bandage for a day or two and you need some pain pills, usually prescription pain medicine for a day or two after surgery. After that, the bandage is changed and you're allowed to use your wrist and hands for light activities — usually we say a 1-pound lifting limit or something like that for the affected hand — and of course where the stitching is, you need to keep that clean and keep that covered, although usually you are allowed to get it wet. Most surgeons would recommend that you wear a brace on your wrist when you're trying to do heavier activities and to rest your wrist at night just to keep your hand in a good position. But you can remove the splint for exercises for the wrist and certainly if you use your hand for light activities of daily living.

The stitches would come out in about 10 days or two weeks typically, and that's again the same for endoscopic and open procedures. And at that time, you can start to use your hand a little heavier because you don't have to worry about irritation or infection where the stitches are. And usually over the next month or so after that, you gradually build up your strength from say 1 pound to 5 pounds to 10 pounds to 20 pounds until usually by about eight weeks after surgery most people are back to all, or almost all, of their usual activities, unless there are extremely heavy physical activities involving very strong lifting, 50 pounds, 100-pound lifting, in which case it may take a few weeks beyond that.

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Last Updated: 2010-04-17
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