Carpel tunnel syndrome is a very common condition caused by pressure on the nerves that run through the wrist. These pinched nerves run through a channel called the carpel tunnel and this is where this condition has derived its name.
Carpel tunnel syndrome is frequently related to a person’s occupation, particularly if they use vibrating tools or perform repeated and forceful hand movements in awkward positions. It is also frequently seen in women between 40 and 60 years of age, in pregnant or menopausal women, and people who have a history of broken wrists (Colles’ fracture).
The only effective solution for carpel tunnel syndrome is hand surgery and Dr Hartley will discuss with you a number of different surgical procedures and select the one that best suits your condition.
Hand surgery for carpel tunnel syndrome is fairly quick and you are allowed to leave the Gold Coast hospital the same day. You will need to keep the bandage on your hand for two weeks and keep the area dry as well.
These are your post-operative instructions from Dr Hartley for the period following your carpel tunnel surgery.
There are six questions we are often asked by our patients:
Should I move or exercise after carpel tunnel surgery?
How long do I leave my dressings on my wrist after carpel tunnel surgery?
What pain relief medication can I use after carpel tunnel surgery?
How long until I can drive again following carpel tunnel surgery?
How long will it take to recover following carpel tunnel surgery?
How long before I can return to work after carpel tunnel surgery?
We will answer these questions in turn below:
Yes, it is recommended that you perform gentle movements of the fingers for the first few days, as early movement is crucial to a good recovery.
Your hand will be bandaged following your surgery. So when you wish to take a shower, tape a plastic bag over your hand and hold your hand with your fingers pointing up to prevent water dripping inside your dressing.
Pain is not usually a feature following carpel tunnel surgery. Many patients actually tell us that they sleep better the first night after carpal tunnel release - than they have for a long time prior to surgery.
However, your hand may be numb for up to 12-24 hours after surgery, due to the use of local anaesthetic during your surgery. This usually resolves itself fully overnight, but it is not uncommon that some numbness can persist, in part or completely, for several days.
If the pain in your hand or wrist becomes severe, take 1-2 Endone tablets every 4-6 hours and if it persists, call Dr Hartley’s offices for further assistance. Also, don’t forget to continue taking your usual medication as instructed by your doctor.
As a general rule, you can expect to spend at least a week without driving, following carpel tunnel surgery. You can drive when you are able to lift a two-litre carton of milk, pour out some milk and return the carton to the table in a controlled fashion.
Generally speaking, carpal tunnel release is a very successful surgery with a reliable outcome - particularly if the only symptom you suffered prior to surgery was pain.
However, if there has been a long-standing compression of the nerve with altered nerve function (numbness or weakness) your recovery may not be fully guaranteed. In these instances, return of function is largely determined by the degree of compression and for the length of time the nerve was compressed.
A return to a desk job can occur within days of surgery, whereas it can be several weeks before returning to a manual job. Full strength and dexterity might not return until 3 months after surgery.
This is not a question our patients regularly ask us, but it is a subject which is important to mention. Cigarette smoking (even just one or two) can affect your healing and rate of complications following your surgery.
Therefore, it is strongly recommend that you do not smoke for one month after surgery. Some patients take this as an opportunity to give up smoking.
For more information on what to do after carpel tunnel surgery, please call our receptionist - Annie Thomas on 1300 447 563 or complete our online enquiry form.