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What to Expect After the Operation

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Helping you to make a speedy recovery after carpal tunnel release

What to expect after the operation


The operation involves a cut being made at the base of the palm. The scar is made in a natural skin crease so should not be too visible once it settles. The scar can be sore for a few weeks after surgery.


You should be discharged with a dressing that supports and protects the incision but which leaves the fingers free for movement. Dressings should be kept dry, so when bathing it is advisable to cover your dressing using a large-sized rubber glove or a plastic bag.


Not everyone needs to see a physiotherapist after surgery unless there is a problem with scar pain or stiffness. Some general rules that are useful for everyone are:

  • Hand elevation is important to prevent swelling and stiffness of the fingers.
  • Remember not to walk with your hand dangling, or to sit with your hand held in your lap.
  • It is fine, however, to lower your hand for light use and you should get back to normal light activities as soon as possible as guided by common sense.
  • It is safe to use the fingers for day-today activities such as eating, dressing, brushing your hair. These activities all help to prevent stiffness and swelling.


The pain and tingling you experienced at night before the operation should settle immediately. If you have established numbness, dryness, lost dexterity or wasting of the muscle at the base of the thumb, then recovery of these problems is uncertain, especially as you get older. Ideally, surgery should be performed before these problems develop.


Your stitches will be removed at about 10 to 14 days after the operation.


You will find that your grip is weaker than before the operation and slightly uncomfortable. This can be a bit frustrating but you should be back to full power by 6 to 12 weeks as healing occurs. Exercises such as squeezing balls will not speed up the process, and if overdone this can actually delay your recovery.


The operation is not usually so painful. Simple painkillers such as paracetamol or anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen should be enough for the first few days.

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