For a smooth recovery, do your homework before surgery:

  • Visit our website to learn about your diagnosis and treatment:
  • Talk to your employer about your plans to return to work with restrictions or part-time at first.
  • Respect the healing process; it takes time.

What kind of surgery did you have?

  • Carpal Tunnel Release: a ligament that was pressing on an important nerve in your hand was cut.
  • Trigger Finger Release: the tunnel that was catching the tendon that bends your finger was opened.
  • DeQuervain’s release: the tunnel that rubbed on 2 thumb tendons was opened.

For the first 2-3 days:

Controlling the Pain: The novocaine inside your hand will keep it numb for 8-12 hours after surgery.

    • The most important way to control pain is to control swelling. Keep your hand elevated above your heart most of the day and night. Rest your hand on your opposite shoulder while up and around.
    • Place a LARGE ice pack around the surgical area for 20 minutes every 3-4 hours. Fill a gallon-sized zippered plastic bag with ice cubes, or buy a LARGE gel-pack that you can put in the freezer.
    • Medication:
      • Over-the-counter ibuprofen (Advil) OR naproxen (Aleve) according to package instructions.
      • Your prescription anti-inflammatory medication as prescribed.
      • Do NOT take any anti-inflammatory medication because of your other medical issues.
      • Take Tylenol, 500 mg, 2 tablets, 3 times a day (OK to take along with your anti-inflammatory).

Change the dressing:

  • For the first 2 days, keep the dressing clean and dry. Cover it with a plastic bag to shower.
  • On the second day after surgery remove the dressing, wash your hands briefly and pat them dry. DO NOT soak your hands until after your 2-week postop visit. Cover the area with a band-aid or other light dressing.
  • Some incisions are closed with nylon stitches that are removed in 2 weeks.
  • Others are closed with absorbable stitches under the skin, then covered with paper tapes. .Leave the paper tapes in place until the 2 week postop visit.
  • Wrap your hand with the Ace bandage: a little snug to help the swelling, not too tight. Or, get “compression glove” from the craft store (a lycra glove that crafters wear, about $20. With or without the fingers, whatever’s comfortable.)


  • Move your neck, both shoulders and elbows 10 times, 3-5 times/day to avoid stiffness.
  • After carpal tunnel surgery: you’ll wear a splint for the first few weeks to protect your palm while it heals. If you only had trigger finger or DeQuervain’s surgery, you won’t need the splint.
  • You can use your hand for light activities like holding a toothbrush or a pencil, buttering toast or light typing as soon as you’d like. Lifting up to 1-2 pounds is OK until the wound is well-healed, about 4 weeks.
  • Gradually increase how much and how long you use your hand…watch the wound, and don’t overdo it.
  • Start your exercises on the first day after surgery (see other side). Begin slowly and you’ll improve day by day.
  • You can leave the stitches open to the air while you’re resting. Use the Ace wrap if you’re up and around.
  • It’s OK to drive IF you can safely control your car. Use common sense.
  • Take a walk, ride a stationary bike or do other lower-body or core exercises for 20-30 minutes each day.

Postop Instructions: Hand Surgery

For the next 3-14 days:

  • Elevate your hand while resting to let any swelling drain back into circulation. Pain and swelling at this stage mean you’re overdoing it!
  • Switch from ice to heat if it feels better. You can cut back on pain medication as you feel better.