It’s been about 3 months since my first carpal tunnel surgery. I had my second one about 6 weeks after the first. If you want to know about what to expect during the surgery, you can check out that post, HERE! Not sure if surgery is right for you? Check out 7 Signs It’s Time to Get Carpal Tunnel Surgery.
I had each hand done by a different surgeon. For the most part, each procedure and recovery has been the same.
The scar above my wrist in the picture above is unrelated. Years ago, my hand went through a window and a large piece of glass broke off into my arm. I always thought that was the reason I had so many problems with my hand. That is, until I started having the same problems with my left hand. My recovery conditions are a little bit different because I have also have arthritis in my right hand, and ecu tendonitis on both hands. That means there are a lot of things I still can’t do, or having pain while doing. So, I’ll stick strictly to the things I know are improving, post-carpal-tunnel-surgery.
The post-surgery bruising was all over the palm of my hand up to my fingers, and up my inner arm, for the first several weeks. I was in a lot of pain, but it was still bearable. Immediately following the surgery, it is important to begin moving your fingers around and making fists, as often as you can. I’m talking about within the first five minutes. You’ll start doing this right away. For the first three days, it is recommended that you keep your hand above your heart as much as possible.
You can use pain medication and ice for swelling and pain. When the stitches are removed, two weeks later, you’ll begin giving firm massage above the scar to prevent the scar tissue from hardening too much. This is important. I’m now 3 months post-surgery, and I continue to massage, daily. Use any lotion on the scar tissue, when you massage. This will just help you be able to provide a smooth movement over the scar and is not about making the actual skin soft.
You’ll have a bandage, not a splint, that you will keep on until the stitches are removed. I took off the bandage for the picture and had a doctor redress the wound. The bandage is sterile, so you really should NOT remove it, to help prevent infection. While I did not get an infection, I definitely got an earful from the doctor!
3 Months Later: Carpal Tunnel Surgery Recovery
The daily pain I usually experienced, specifically related to the carpal tunnel has improved. The first few weeks of recovery were more painful than I expected, but that could also be due to my other hand issues. The incision site is still tender to the touch, but it is bearable, and slowly improving. I cannot put direct weight over the incision site, such as doing a push-up, but I can hold things in my hand, and touch the incision site without actual pain. If I flex my hands downward all the way, I feel a twinge of discomfort on the incision site. I feel it more on my left hand than on my right. This is promising, because it seems as though time will resolve this, since my left hand surgery was more recent than the right.
I still have some numbness at times, but the severe wake-me-up-at-night numbness has reduced significantly. This also means that I drop things less frequently. While it is likely you will feel mostly fully recovered within 90 days, it is important to know that a full recovery can take up to 1 year, for the nerves to heal. The latter part of carpal tunnel surgery recovery may not be as noticeable, but recovery is still taking place.
Carpal tunnel surgery recovery can present as immediate improvement for some, while it might take longer for others. Don’t despair, if it takes a little longer. The thing about carpal tunnel damage is that it’s not reversible. This means that if there is any damage to your nerves, surgery will not undo that. Rather, it will prevent further damage. My own carpal tunnel surgery recovery has been smooth, for the most part. I can write with pen and paper, cook without frequently dropping things, and flat iron my hair.
These might seem like simple things, but my hands would become numb and tingly within less than a minute of gripping things or using other types of repetitive motion. Honestly, I wish I’d done the surgeries long ago.
Since I have so many different problems with my hands, it was obvious to me that I needed to change the way I do certain things. Don’t wait until you have more problems to make your own changes. If you’ve gotten to the point that you are going through your own carpal tunnel surgery recovery, it’s time to take care of your hands as much as possible. I understand that most of us have to work, but there are things we can do to lessen the strain.
Mostly, we have to change our mindset. Just because you can lift something, doesn’t mean you should. Think about whether the weight of what you want to lift, or the strain of the motion you are making is using your muscle or tendons and ligaments. Our muscles might be strong enough to lift up a 5-gallon water jug with one hand, but our tendons and ligaments might feel that strain. Personally, I’d definitely changed the way I approach daily living.
Here are some things you can do:
- Take frequent breaks from any repetitive movements.
- Use wrist or hand supports when doing strenuous movements. (Don’t use supports all the time, because you can lose range-of-motion and actually decrease your strength.
- Delegate chores.
- Use two hands when moving pans while cooking. Even if you don’t feel the strain, you don’t want it to catch up to you. Preventive measures can go a long way.
- Practice range-of-motion exercises and stretching for your hands and wrists.
- Practice grip strengthening.
- Stop cleaning! Okay, not really, but approach this differently, as well. Try not to wait until the weekend to do a week’s worth of family laundry in one sitting. If you hand-wash dishes, consider getting a dishwasher, or delegate some of the workload. If neither are an option, wash dishes more frequently, rather than all at once.
For over two-years, since our move, I hand washed dishes, every day. Honestly, it took about two hours of my day. We are a big family and I cook a lot. Even though I’ve had surgery on both hands, I decide it was time to get a dishwasher, a few weeks ago. I can already feel an improvement in my carpal tunnel surgery recovery!
I hope this was helpful! Remember, every experience is different. If you liked this article, please remember to share. Also, check out my Facebook Pages and follow along on my other social media platforms. I’d love to connect with you!
By: Alicia Gonzalez