Hand Surgery Recovery Time: Pain, Exercise & Complications (2023)

Many factors can contribute to your hand surgery recovery time and can vary greatly depending upon the complexity and type of surgery you’re undergoing. Your own individual body’s capacity for healing and your lifestyle habits also play a big role in your healing time after hand surgery.

Additionally, how well you follow your NJ hand doctor’s instructions before surgery and during recovery will also affect your hand surgery recovery time. Limiting stress can help you heal faster and improves your overall health.

Expert Hand Surgeons Produce Consistently Excellent Outcomes–and Shorten Recovery

The good news for patients is that hand surgery is very safe when performed by an expert hand surgeon. The best hand surgeons will also ensure, through careful surgical planning and superb surgical technique, that your recovery is uneventful and your hand surgery recovery time is as quick as possible.

An expert northern NJ hand surgeon will clearly explain any surgical risks. The best hand surgeons are able to minimize complications and ensure consistently favorable hand surgery outcomes by implementing precise surgical techniques. This gentle precision will allowyour hands to recover quickly.

(Video) Hand & Finger Fitness to STOP Pain & Stiffness After Surgery or Arthritis

Meet Dr. Yueh, our hand surgery specialist

Common Reasons for Hand Surgery

Surgery is not usually the first line of treatment for many of the problems below. However, if non-surgical treatments have been unsuccessful, surgery may be recommended. Your hand surgeon can advise you if hand surgery is appropriate at this time and provide options. Different healing times are needed for:

  • Repetitive stress injury: Carpal tunnel release is an example of a common problem and surgical solution. (See below.)
  • Osteoarthritis, wear and tear on hand, finger and thumb joints: Surgical treatment can include fusing bones around an arthritic joint or reconstructing joint cartilage with soft tissue from other body areas.
  • Rheumatic changes: Due to arthritis, causing chronic pain, inflammation and restricted movement.
  • Hand trauma due to an accident: May necessitate skin grafts, amputation or reconstruction/reattachment of a finger.
  • Nerve damage: Can occur due to trauma or disease. Surgery may involve nerve reattachment or grafting.
  • Tendon damage: Can occur due to trauma or disease; surgery reconnects the tendon if it was severed and grafting may be needed. Recovery can take 2 to 3 months. A splint and physical therapy may be needed.
  • Knuckle joint (MCP joint) replacement: Called arthroplasty, this is sometimes done to correct damage from rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Recovery can take 3 months or more. A splint and physical therapy will be needed.
  • Synovectomy: Removal of inflamed synovial tissue (membrane surrounding inflamed joints) to alleviate RA symptoms. Often done along with arthroscopy (minimally invasive joint surgery).
  • Trapeziectomy: Removal of the trapezium bone in your wrist, located at the base of the thumb, may be needed due to arthritis. Your wrist and thumb may be immobilized for 3 to 6 weeks. In some cases, this is done to allow scar tissue growth to fill the gap left after bone removal. Exercises and physical therapy will help you return to your normal activity level gradually over the next few months.
  • Removal of ganglion cysts: Cysts may occur due to leakage of joint fluid, forming cysts in patients with osteoarthritis. Removal or pressure relief is often done with a needle as a minor procedure, but cysts may return. You can go back to normal activities almost immediately.
  • Congenital deformities present from birth: There is a wide variety of issues and treatment solutions.
  • And more.

Carpal Tunnel Release Surgery: Recovery Highlights

Carpal tunnel surgery is one of the most common hand surgeries, which helps correct pain, numbness or tingling and restricted movement in the hand, fingers, wrist and forearm. Pressure on the median nerve (passing through the wrist under the carpal ligament) is relieved by releasing/splitting the ligament under local anesthesia. Recovery is generally quite quick.

Patients can typically return to their routine, daily activity on the same day as surgery. Short sessions of typing and light gripping practice will help the healing process. In about one week, any bandage is removed. From this point on, your incision can be washed normally but should remain covered by a Band-Aid.

Avoid submerging your hand in water for about 3 weeks. For instance, avoid swimming, tub bathing, washing dishes or clothing by hand for about 3 weeks.Lifting or carrying heavy objects, performing household chores, manual labor and heavy gripping should be avoided for approximately 4 weeks.

Tips for Speedy Hand Surgery Recovery Time

Start with making your hand surgeon selection a top priority—and the rest will be much easier. With atop Bergen County hand surgeon, you can expect your hands to function better after hand surgery, with little to no pain, improved range of motion or nerve function, depending upon the reason for, and goals of, your surgery.

When you select a hand surgeon with aesthetic training, your hands will also look healthy with only a small scar, well hidden in the natural creases of your hand. And most importantly, your hand function, grip strength and dexterity will be improved.

(Video) Hand surgery recovery | Physical Therapy Exercises for My Finger

Your Research Can Shorten Hand Surgery Recovery Time

Research: you’re doing it right! It may surprise you to know that the research you are doing now, prior to your hand surgery, can help to speed up your recovery process. Careful research on hand surgery procedures and research to ensure that you choose an excellent surgeon–both of these preparatory steps will lower your risk and enhance your outcome of hand surgery.

A well-qualified and dedicated hand surgeon will guide you in understanding your options. Being confident in your choice of surgeon will also help you feel confident going into your procedure, and shorten your hand surgery recovering time.

Reduce Stress for the Best Surgical Outcomes

Limit stress going into hand surgery by learning about your procedure up front, with assistance from an expert NJ hand surgeon. Practice stress relief activities such as moderate exercise, meditation or yoga, socializing with friends and any other healthy habits that work for you.

You’ll also relieve stress and anxiety by taking the time to select the best hand surgeon: a well-qualified, experienced surgeon should also be one with whom you communicate well and in whom you feel confident in placing your trust.

Excellent Preparation = Quick Healing from Hand Surgery

Your overall physical and emotional health, as mentioned, greatly affect your hand surgery recovery time. If you’re having hand surgery for a problem brought on by diabetes, for example, you may heal a bit more slowly than average due to your health condition.

If your blood sugar is well controlled, however, your recovery period can be just about average. In preparation, your hand surgeon will want to be sure your blood sugar is under control before your surgery.


Closely Follow Pre and Post Surgery Instructions to Speed Hand Surgery Healing

You may be instructed to do hand exercises or attend physical therapy as part of your hand surgery recovery. You will also be cautioned not to return to certain strenuous activities until you’re given the OK by your NJ hand specialist.

Be sure to follow these guidelines, as well as all other directions from your surgeon in order to lessen your hand surgery recovery time. If you need clarification or don’t understand any surgical instructions, don’t hesitate to ask your surgeon. Pre- and post-surgery instructions may include:

Stop Smoking (if applicable)

Smokers tend to heal more slowly than non-smokers, so your hand surgeon will ask you to quit well in advance of hand surgery to give your body the best chance for proper healing. Ideally, you should not smoke for a few months after surgery—and quitting for good would be the best choice. (Why not take this opportunity of “enforced” smoking cessation to kick-start your will-power to help you quit smoking?)

Elevate Your Hand

Elevating your hand to a level just above your heart will help to minimize swelling.

Watch for Signs of Proper Healing

You will be given a customized list of signs to watch for during your hand surgery recovery time. It will include things like keeping an eye on the color of your skin and the feeling in your hand. This helps to ensure that your hand and fingers are getting proper circulation and staying warm, as they should.

If you notice any problems, it could mean the splint or bandage is too tight. If you experience a high temperature, excess bleeding, swelling or pain, contact your surgeon.

(Video) Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Surgery - PreOp Patient Education

Infection is a rare complication of hand surgery. Your surgeon is the person best able to help you avoid any serious recovery problems. Any time there is something concerning you, even if it’s a slight concern, always call your surgeon right away.

Keep Moving to Avoid Stiffness

Once your doctor gives the OK (this can sometimes be immediately following surgery) begin moving your fingers and hand to encourage circulation and keep stiffness at bay. This will be sure to shorten hand surgery recovery time.

Don’t Submerge Your Hand

Don’t go swimming or keep your hand under water until your surgeon gives you permission. Keep the hand (and dressing or splint) clean and dry.

What About Itching after Hand Surgery?

If your cast, splint or bandage itch, please don’t stick anything underneath to scratch. Any scratching might injure your skin (without you realizing) and lead to infection. For itch relief try using a hair dryer set on cool to fan your skin. You could also try taking an oral, over the counter antihistamine, like Benadryl.

Don’t Go Back to Full Activity Too Early

Doing so could injure or re-injure your hand, lengthen overall recovery or reverse any improvements made by your surgery.

Contact Cohen/Winters to Learn More

To learn more about how hand surgery may help you regain full, pain-free use of your hands, contact Cohen/Winters Aesthetic & Reconstructive Surgery in Bergen County for a consultation today.

(Video) After Carpal Tunnel Surgery: Best Exercises to Restore Max. Function, Strength, & Pain Free


How long does severe pain last after hand surgery? ›

Within Two Weeks After the Operation

You will feel some pain and soreness as your body begins the healing process. Take the pain medication prescribed by your doctor. You will also need to return to the doctor's clinic for the removal of the stitches, and you will need to wear a splint to assist with healing.

What are the complications of hand surgery? ›

What are the risks of hand surgery?
  • Infection.
  • Incomplete healing.
  • Loss of feeling or movement of the hand or fingers.
  • Blood clots may form.

How much pain is normal after hand surgery? ›

Mild to severe pain may be expected after many types of hand surgeries. Pain medications may be given to help alleviate the discomfort. The following are some of the other possible outcomes that you may be told to expect following hand surgery: Your hand may be immobilized in a bandage or splint after surgery.

How long after hand surgery can I exercise? ›

Your restrictions will vary depending on the hand surgery that has been performed, and the requirement (or not) to protect repaired structures. For at least 2 weeks and up to 6 weeks after your operation, with the operated arm: No lifting anything heavier than a 'cup-of –tea' No pulling or pushing.

Why does hand surgery hurt so much? ›

The main reason there is pain after surgery is swelling or inflammation. Usually, the peak time for this is the first 3 days after surgery. The best ways to limit swelling, inflammation, and pain are ice, elevation, ibuprofen (or other NSAID medication), and rest.

What are the two most common complications of surgery? ›

Sometimes, complications can occur after surgery. These are the most common complications.
Complications may include:
  • Shock. ...
  • Hemorrhage. ...
  • Wound infection. ...
  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE). ...
  • Pulmonary embolism. ...
  • Lung (pulmonary) complications. ...
  • Urinary retention. ...
  • Reaction to anesthesia.

What is the fastest way to recover from hand surgery? ›

Tips for Hand Surgery Recovery
  1. Keep Your Hand and Arm Elevated. Raising your hand and arm above the level of your heart minimizes swelling and pain after your surgery, especially for the first 3-5 days. ...
  2. Plastic Bags Are Your New Best Friend. ...
  3. Don't Neglect Your Therapy Exercises. ...
  4. Listen To Your Body.
Apr 25, 2019

What should I watch after hand surgery? ›

Numbness or tingling in your arm or hand that has not gone away 24 hours after your surgery. A lot of pain that does not get better when you take your pain medication. If you do not have a follow-up appointment, please call your surgeon's office to make one.

How long does nerve pain last after hand surgery? ›

Nerve pain after surgery, also called postoperative neuropathic pain, is nerve damage that presents itself as burning, stabbing, or shooting pain in the area where a patient has had surgery. This postoperative nerve pain can last for months, and in some cases, years.

How long does it take for surgery pain to go away? ›

Q: How long does post-surgical pain last? A: Post-surgery pain should be temporary (lasting 2 to 5 days) and is managed using pain medications, anti-inflammatory drugs and/or local anesthetics. For minor surgical procedures, pain is anticipated to last from 1-2 days).

What exercises can I do after hand surgery? ›

Hand Exercises After Surgery
  • Tight Fist Exercise -- Make a fist, clenching tightly. ...
  • Finger Bend Exercise – Extend your fingers, keeping them straight. ...
  • Finger to Finger Exercise – Touch you thumb to your index finger to form an “O.” Then straighten your fingers and touch your middle finger with your thumb.
Mar 2, 2018

How long does stiffness last after hand surgery? ›

A bad injury or major surgery will make your hand stiff. It usually takes about 6 months to really loosen up scar tissue. Do NOT expect your hand to be "normal" after a bad injury or major surgery. After a bad injury or major surgery your hand will never be exactly as it was before.

Can I exercise with stitches in my hand? ›

Avoid vigorous physical activity while the stitches are in place – this includes heavy lifting, running, and other sporting activities. Avoid activities that pull or stretch on the area with stitches.

How many hours does hand surgery take? ›

Depending on the type of surgery you may have, hand surgery may take anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour long. Some hand or wrist surgeries may be less complex than others and can take less than 30 minutes.

How long after hand surgery can I drive? ›

You must not drive for 24 hours after receiving sedation or general anaesthesia. If the medications that you are taking affect your reaction time or your ability to think clearly then you are not fit to drive. Vehicles, injuries and patients vary.

How long does it take to feel normal after surgery? ›

After surgery, you may need to recover for two to three weeks or longer, depending on the procedure. Even if you start to feel better, don't jump back into your old activities at your former pace. Follow your healthcare team's advice for how long you need to take it easy.

What are strong painkillers for hand surgery? ›

Opioids, powerful pain medications that diminish the perception of pain, may be given after surgery. Intravenous opioids may include fentanyl, hydromorphone, morphine, oxycodone, oxymorphone and tramadol.

Can you use your hand after hand surgery? ›

A hand surgery patient should expect a recovery period of several weeks or months, depending on the complexity of the surgery and their body's capacity to heal. During recovery, patients should refrain from using their hands in any manner not approved by their surgeon.

How do you know if something is wrong with surgery? ›

Experiencing soreness or mild to moderate pain after surgery is expected, but if this pain persists or worsens over time, it could be a sign of an infection or other complications. If the pain becomes increasingly hard to control, even with prescribed pain medication, contact a medical professional.

What are the 3 main problems in surgery? ›

Common Surgical Risks:
  • Anesthesia Complications During Surgery.
  • Death Due to Surgery.
  • Infections After Surgery.
  • Scarring After Surgery.
Oct 13, 2021

When is the most critical time after surgery? ›

Conclusions: The first 48 hours after surgery is a critical period in high-risk patients, and a stay in the S-ICU should be seriously considered.

What do people need after hand surgery? ›

Rest and Elevation Are Crucial

We'll ask you to keep your hand and wrist elevated above your heart to reduce swelling and pain. The more often it is elevated in the days after surgery, the faster you will heal. Pillows stacked on your bed, couch or recliner will do the trick.

How should I sleep after hand surgery? ›

Your surgeon might teach you the “hand above elbow, elbow above heart” rule. When sleeping, it may help to use a large mound of pillows, either beside you or on your chest, to keep your hand and wrist in this elevated position.

What is the most common hand surgery? ›

Carpal Tunnel Surgery

One of the most common hand surgeries is performed to address carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when there is excess pressure on the median nerve, which runs through the wrist. The compression of the median nerve causes pain in the hand and wrist.

Do you need physical therapy after hand surgery? ›

Following surgery, bones, muscles and soft tissues undergo a period of healing. Failure to use the joint may cause it to heal improperly. This can limit range of motion, flexibility, function of the joint and overall surgical outcome. This makes it essential to complete physical therapy after surgery.

What to expect after hand surgery with screws? ›

Your Recovery

You've had surgery to remove orthopedic hardware such as metal screws, pins, or plates. You can expect some pain and swelling around the cut (incision) the doctor made. This should get better within a few days. But it's common to have some pain for up to several weeks.

How long should you wear a sling after hand surgery? ›

Your arm will be in a sling for 3 days. above the level of your heart to help control swelling. operated hand. Rest your arm on the pillows to keep it above the level of your heart.

How long does it take for a hand incision to heal? ›

How long does it take for an incision to heal? Good incision care can help ensure that it heals well and infection doesn't develop. In most cases, a surgical incision heals in about two weeks.

What are signs of nerve damage? ›

The signs of nerve damage
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands and feet.
  • Feeling like you're wearing a tight glove or sock.
  • Muscle weakness, especially in your arms or legs.
  • Regularly dropping objects that you're holding.
  • Sharp pains in your hands, arms, legs, or feet.
  • A buzzing sensation that feels like a mild electrical shock.

How long does it take for muscles and nerves to heal after surgery? ›

Successful nerve growth to the neuromuscular endplate may take as long as 6-12 months after surgery. After this period, nerve maturation and initial muscle recovery may take 12-18 months. Remember our body is hard at work healing before any electrical recovery can even be detected in the growing nerve fibers!

What does nerve damage feel like after surgery? ›

Tingling, numbness, muscle weakness, or burning are the most common signs and symptoms of nerve damage after surgery. Numbness is the most annoying and troubling problem caused after surgery. It is basically losing sensation in a particular area of the body that affects a person's lifestyle.

How much pain is too much after surgery? ›

It is reasonable to aim for pain that is a 2-3 out of 10, with zero being no pain and ten being the worst pain you can imagine. If you are concerned about the level of pain control you will have after surgery, speak with your surgeon before and after your surgery.

What gets rid of pain naturally? ›

12 natural ways to relieve pain
  • Lavender.
  • Rosemary.
  • Peppermint.
  • Eucalyptus.
  • Cloves.
  • Capsaicin.
  • Ginger.
  • Feverfew.
Feb 27, 2019

How long does bone pain last after surgery? ›

You can expect the pain from the bone to get much better almost right after the procedure. But you may have some pain for 2 to 3 weeks and mild pain for up to 6 weeks after surgery. How soon you can return to work and your normal routine depends on your job and how long it takes the bone to heal.

How long does it take to recover from major hand surgery? ›

Generally, it takes 2 to 4 months before the typical patient experiences enough recovery to return to work. Ultimately, it can take several months to more than a year to recover 100 percent, but this is not usually necessary before one can return to living a relatively normal life.

Is severe pain after surgery normal? ›


Pain after surgery is known as acute pain; it has a known cause and will usually improve as the tissues heal. Pain after surgery is normal. Sometimes acute pain continues and becomes longer term and persistent (chronic pain).

When does post surgical pain peak? ›

It is common for people to have some symptoms after surgery. Mild or moderate pain and swelling at the incision site are common. These symptoms usually peak 2 to 3 days after surgery and then get better.

How much pain is too much pain? ›

Severe Pain.

When it intensifies to level 8, pain makes even holding a conversation extremely difficult and your physical activity is severely impaired. Pain is said to be at level 9 when it is excruciating, prevents you speaking and may even make you moan or cry out. Level 10 pain is unbearable.

Is it normal to feel pain 2 weeks after surgery? ›

What is chronic post-surgical pain? Let's start with some definitions – acute postoperative pain is the pain experienced immediately after an operation, usually lasting for days or sometimes weeks – this is entirely normal and expected.

What foods reduce inflammation after surgery? ›

So what are anti-inflammatory foods? They include lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, plant-based proteins (like beans and nuts), fatty fish, and fresh herbs and spices. Fruits and veggies: Research shows that vitamin K-rich leafy greens like spinach and kale reduce inflammation, as do broccoli and cabbage.

How long does it take to be pain free after surgery? ›

Most patients have some pain after surgery, especially within the first 48 hours, and it's normal to have pain for several weeks. “Zero pain is not realistic, so that isn't the goal,” says Dr. Thomas.


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