Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Surgery

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Surgery

Carpal tunnel injury occurs when there is persistent loss of feeling or tingling in the fingers or hand, or no strength in the thumb. Surgery for carpal tunnel is considered after a long period of nonsurgical treatment, unless you are experiencing nerve damage in conjunction with carpal tunnel. During the surgery, the transverse carpal ligament is cut, which releases pressure on the median nerve. This usually improves pain and function in the wrist and hand.


Carpal tunnel syndrome is widely treated with nonsurgical treatments before surgery is an option. These treatments may include physical therapy, wrist splints, over-the-counter pain medicines, or steroid shots in the wrist to relieve pain and swelling. There are some cases in which carpal tunnel surgery may be the answer when nonsurgical treatments have not relieved pain. For example, if the symptoms of carpal tunnel have lasted for more than six months with no improvement, or if symptoms or pain increase despite the use of splints or corticosteroid injections, surgery may be considered. If you and your doctor decide carpal tunnel surgery is the answer, rest assured that the surgery is fairly simple and successful. There are several ways you can start preparing now to have a successful recovery once you return home.

What to Expect at Home

Incision and Splint Care

  • Keep your bandaging over your incision clean and dry. Change it as instructed from your physician.
  • If you have a splint, wear it as directed from your doctor. You will most likely be in a heavy bandage or splint for 1 to 2 weeks.
  • Ice and elevate your wrist. To reduce swelling and pain after your surgery, you will want to ice your wrist for 10 to 20 minutes at a time, a few times a day. Propping your wrist on a pillow above the level of your heart will also help reduce swelling.

Activity Level:

  • Restrict heavy use of your hand and wrist for at least the first two weeks after your surgery.
  • Focus on wrist and hand rehabilitation. To regain your wrist and hand range of motion, strength and grip, your doctor will provide you with a series of exercises to do after your surgery. On your own, or with the assistance of a physical therapy program these exercises will speed recovery and strengthen your wrist and hand.
  • Make necessary adjustments with your job duties and household responsibilities. Modify responsibilities in ways that avoid overuse or misuse of your wrist and hand to promote healing and recovery. These movements may include activities such as typing, chopping food, or vacuuming. Avoid any activities that cause vibration to the wrist or hand such as using power tools.
  • Find balance between rest and activity. Get plenty of sleep and rest, and make sure to include moderate movement and exercise such as walking.
  • Avoid lifting objects heavier than 2 pounds and using your hand for up to two weeks after surgery.
  • Begin driving when you are confident with your hand mobility.

Diet and Medication:

  • Your normal diet is totally appropriate after carpal tunnel surgery.
  • Utilize and follow the pain management plan you and your physician developed after your surgery. You will probably experience pain and swelling in your hand and wrist. Ensure that you communicate which prescription medications you are taking prior to your surgery so your physician can monitor and instruct you how to proceed during recovery.
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