Before coming home from hospital make sure you’re clear about:
- how to manage pain
- how to care for your incision/s
- your level of activity
- exercises for your hand
- driving (don’t forget to also check with your car insurance company in case they have any restrictions after an operation)
- symptoms that warrant medical attention
- any changes to your regular medication
- what kind of exercise you can do
- when (and if) you need to have stitches out.
Managing pain and swelling
You’ll probably be prescribed painkillers to take when pain bothers you. Sometimes numbness or pins and needles persist after the pain goes and takes longer to go away. Apply ice packs regularly for the first few days to reduce swelling. Keep your wrist elevated at night by resting it on 2 to 3 pillows for the first 5 to 7 days.
Expect to have quite a bit of bruising
This normally goes away within a few weeks.
Caring for your incision
Keep the dressing over your incision/s clean and dry until they heal, which is generally about 12 days. Ask your surgeon if you’ll need to change the dressing, or if it can stay on until the incision has healed.
Your incision may be quite sensitive because there are lots of sensory nerve fibres in the area. Once your sutures are removed, you can massage the area twice a day with sorbolene or vitamin E cream. This will help to prevent a sensitive scar from forming.
Limitations on your activities
You’ll probably need help with everyday activities like getting dressed, cooking and driving, and if you have both hands done, going to the toilet. Avoid strenuous activities including opening jars and heavy lifting for the first 6 weeks.
If you like to swim, you can do so 2 to 3 weeks after surgery. Returning to other sports may take 1 to 2 months, depending on your hand strength.
Your doctor will tell you when and how to start exercising your wrist.
Wait until your stiches have been taken out (or about 1 to 2 weeks) before driving, as pain can affect your ability to drive safely. As can opioid painkillers.
Returning to work
Follow your surgeon’s advice about how much time to take off work, particularly if your job is physically demanding. Most people need between 2 and 6 weeks off.
It’s important to follow up with your surgeon after the surgery. You’ll need to schedule an appointment for about 2 to 4 weeks afterwards.
Watching out for problems
Call your surgeon if you have:
- unexpected pain
- redness or swelling around your incision/s.