time to heal after carpal tunnel surgery? i had surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome two weeks ago. i understand it can take months to heal completely, but how long should it take for me to see improvement? my hand is still pretty swollen and stiff and i st
3 doctor answers • 6 doctors weighed in
Hand Surgery 35 years experience
I : I always tell patients that the time to healing is variable in that no two patients are exactly the same. However typically you can go back to light activites within a few days to a few weeks and heavy activity in 4-6 weeks. Of course this is job and activity dependent. If you are a sedentary office worker its a lot different than a plumber or machinist. General health also affects return to function. If you have diabetes, are a smoker or have fibromyalgia or an inflammatory condition you may have an extended time period.
Healing means different things to people. Some take it to imply return to activity others return of normal sensation.
I take time to clarify these two questions before surgery.
Will my sensation come back or be normal after surgery?
While the goal of carpal tunnel surgery is to relieve the pressure on the nerve not everyone will respond the same to surgery
some patients will have immediate return of sensation while some will take longer. Some will notice an improvement right away but still feel tingling and will describe this as "numb" the return of sensation is dependent on many factors including age, general health, duration of symptoms, circulation and the actual mechanical severity of compression.
In very severe cases while decompressing the nerve stops the carpal tunnel syndrome from getting worse, full recovery of sensation may not be possible. Often this is seen in patients who have muscle wasting noted prior to surgery and in those with longstanding complete numbness and elevated two-point discrimination. Of course there are many in these categories that improve despite having very severe cases.
Having a severe case where you are not sure if you'd have full recovery is not a reason to put off surgery, as progression is likely if nothing is done.
How about my strength?
This is a very difficult question as there are many reasons why a hand with carpal tunnel may not feel as strong. It may be that the decreased sensation in the fingers prevents someone from knowing how tight to hold and object and that object is dropped more easily. With return of sensation or even a slight improvement in sensation, dropping objects becomes less of a problem. Some severe cases of carpal tunnel can be associated with atrophy in the muscles of the hand. In some severe cases, this muscle will never fully recover. However despite loss of muscle, function can still be preserved. In very severe cases a suregon may recommend a tendon or muscle transfer to improve function.
So the short answer is its variabole, the long answer above. The best thing is to ask your surgeon what to expect.
This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment.
5394 viewsReviewed >2 years ago
Hand Surgery 17 years experience
Depends: Open carpal tunnel where an incision is made to expose the carpal ligament can take weeks to heal and recover from. Endoscopic carpal tunnel where small incisions are made and a camera is used to perform the surgery can take a few days to a few weeks. Generally you should be back to normal activities without difficulty in 3-4 weeks and strenuous activities (>25lbs) in 4-6 weeks.
5348 viewsAnswered >2 years ago
Neurosurgery 28 years experience
6 weeks: For most patients, they are able to gradually resume most normal activities around 6 weeks after surgery. Most do not require occupational therapy on the hand. However, ot can be helpful if the recovery is slow.
4884 viewsReviewed >2 years ago
Last updated Oct 3, 2016
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