After surgery, the hand is usually bandaged and a soft bandage and patients are encouraged to take it easy for the first several days. Vigorous physical exercise can precipitate swelling and sometimes bleeding which are best avoided. Elevation of the hand is encouraged to minimize swelling and throbbing pain and we usually like patients to keep their incisions dry for the first three to five days to minimize the risk of infection or wound problems. After surgery, we actually encourage patients to begin moving their fingers and doing very light activities with the hand almost immediately. The reason for this, the purpose of the surgery is to free the structures in the carpal tunnel to move and glide freely and to relieve any obstruction in motion and pressure on the nerve. Therefore, mobility in the fingers and light use is actually therapeutic. However, we ask patients to refrain from forceful activities that require forceful grip or a lot of pressure on the hand for several weeks to allow the area to heal and to avoid trauma to the tissues as they heal. Six weeks seems to be a pretty good rough estimate for patients to be able to start returning to more forceful activities, putting all of their weight on their hand, gripping very tightly and lifting heavy objects. It's not uncommon for patients to have some tenderness in the palm at the incision for about that long, or maybe a little bit longer. That's often a guide as to when to start to resume more forceful and more normal activities as that pain subsides more and more. It does take people about six months for the incision to be completely healed, the swelling to be entirely resolved and for strength to return to normal after carpal tunnel surgery. However, patients are usually back to full activity and about half that time.
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