Post-Operative Tips from a Hand Doctor
If you are considering surgery on the hand or wrist, it is helpful to know a few tips from a hand doctor for after your surgery. Your hands are one of the most important instruments of the body. With pain, it can be hard to complete "simple" tasks like taking out the trash or typing on a computer. Getting ahead of the pain by seeking help from a hand specialist will help with the longevity of your hands.
Surgery of the Hand- What to Expect
Knowing how to prepare for your surgery will help lessen the stress post-surgery for both you and the ones helping take care of you!
1. Think About Your Daily Tasks and What Will be Different
What do you do when you wake up? Do you usually make a coffee or get your kids ready for school? Think through how that may look different after surgery. Things like driving, opening doors, or even water bottles may be difficult and require assistance. Thinking of the smallest things, and communicating that with your support system, helps everyone be aware of what is expected and helpful for you.
2. Questions to Ask Your Hand Doctor Before Surgery
- When will I be able to drive?
- Will I require physical therapy after surgery?
- What kinds of medications will I be prescribed and how do they affect me?
- How heavy of objects can I pick up? How long will I be restricted?
- When can I get back to work/exercising?
- Are there any warning signs I can be looking out for after surgery?
- Are there any risks associated with this surgery and ways I can prevent them?
Post-Surgery Tips from a Hand Surgeon
1. The RICE Method
Our surgeons talk about the RICE method often. Resting, icing, compressing, and elevating is the first step with almost all injuries. After surgery, it will be important to rest, ice, and elevate the hand to help reduce pain and inflammation.
Resting is the most obvious answer after surgery. Make sure to give your hand time to heal before putting further stress on the surgical site. Go by whatever rest period is instructed by your hand surgeon and physical therapist.
To help drain fluid (inflammation) from the hand, elevate your hand often. You can do this by laying down flat and placing some pillows under your arms. Reducing inflammation will help with pain management and healing the hand quickly.
Icing the hand helps decrease circulation to the hand and "numb" the injury. While keeping the dressing on your hand, use an ice pack up to 4 times a day on your hand.
3. Thoughtful Movement
Though resting your hand after surgery is important, making sure to not rest too much will also help prevent stiffness. Your doctor should give you some kind of instruction as to what kind of movement is safe for you to do after surgery.
Be mindful of the things you are doing after surgery- be careful to not grab unstable or heavy objects.
4. Take Care of Your Dressing
Your hand will likely be dressed after surgery to prevent infection and protect the surgical site. Do NOT remove this. It is important to keep this on and not shower until you have been given the OK by your doctor or physical therapist. For most, you are able to change your dressing 3 days after surgery if you are comfortable doing it on your own. If not, this can be done during a physical therapy appointment.
5. Physical Therapy
Since your hand is one of the most used parts of the body in terms of movement, it is important to get it back to a fully functioning state. Going to your prescribed physical therapy will be the single most important part of your recovery. They know exactly how to get you back to 100%. Our orthopedic surgeons at Elite are all big proponents of physical therapy for pain management and treatment after surgery. You will likely be prescribed at least 4 weeks of physical therapy.