Have a handle on these 6 self-care methods to help you recover from hand surgery

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Have a handle on these 6 self-care methods to help you recover from hand surgery

The hand is an intricate and integral part of our lives and is very sensitive. Thus, an injured hand can really interfere with our daily lives. 

A quick and successful recovery after hand surgery depends greatly on the type of surgery that was performed and the underlying cause of the hand condition. Mild to severe pain may be expected after many types of hand surgeries, and pain medications may be given to help alleviate the discomfort.

In this article, we are going to discuss a variety of easy self-care treatments you can follow to ensure that your recovering hand returns to full strength quickly after surgery.

The following are some of the other possible outcomes that you may expect following hand surgery:

  • Your hand may be immobilized in a bandage or splint after surgery. Your physician will decide the length of time of the immobilization. After some surgeries, the hand may be immobilized for months at nighttime to enhance recovery.
  • There may be some restrictions placed on activities and work after the surgery. This also will be determined by your physician, based on an individual basis.
  • Rehabilitation may be recommended to increase the strength and function of the hand. Rehabilitation may include physical or occupational therapy. A trained specialist will be involved in your care to optimize recovery of the hand.

If therapy, whether physical or occupational, is needed, you can expect to do the following:

  • Exercises for the hand
  • Heat therapy
  • Massage therapy
  • Splinting
  • Traction
  • Bandages to help control swelling
  • Nerve stimulation

In many cases, surgery is just the start of recovery. Intensive rehabilitation may be necessary to regain optimal functioning of the hand. It is important to follow all of the instructions given to you after surgery by your physician and any other specialists that are involved in your care.

Ways to treat your hand after surgery

Elevate your arm and hand when resting

To prevent and minimize swelling and pain, raise the operated hand above the level of the heart for three to five days when sitting or relaxing. When indicated, you will be given a sling or blue Carter pillow to help you prop up your hand. 

Continue to elevate the hand if swelling or pain persists after three to five days. Move your unaffected joints on the surgical side as much as possible to help with swelling and prevent stiffness. For example, if you had surgery on your thumb, then move your shoulder, elbow, wrist and other fingers.

Are you having tingling or burning in your arm or hand?

If you had a local or regional block anesthetic, your arm or hand may be numb for several hours or even overnight. As the numbness wears off, you may have a tingling or burning sensation which will eventually disappear. If the numbness persists after 24 hours, call your doctor. 

Take your pain medication

Start your prescribed pain medication as soon as you get home. You should not wait for the anesthetic to wear off before taking the medication. In order to minimize nausea, eat some food before taking your medication. Consult your doctor for severe pain that is not relieved by the medication and elevation. 

Plastic bags are your new best friend

Keeping your dressings and bandages dry after surgery is a priority. Your dressings are there to protect your incisions and prevent infection or further injury, so it’s important not to get them wet. Having plastic bags ready for when you shower or bathe will protect your wounds from getting wet until your surgeon gives you the okay to get wet.  You may even want to invest in a shower sleeve. These are handy and are often available at medical supply stores and drug stores.

If your dressing becomes wet, call your doctor immediately. Do not remove or modify the dressing unless instructed by your doctor.

Don’t neglect your therapy exercises

Therapy can be a critical part of your recovery, and if prescribed by your surgeon, it should not be overlooked. Therapy exercises work to help restore your hand strength, flexibility and movement. Attempting to return to normal function without therapy can re-injure the hand, so it’s important to continue your doctor-prescribed hand therapy regimen. Setting alarms or reminders on your phone is an easy way to keep on track of your therapy schedule.

Listen to your body

It’s expected that you will experience some discomfort after hand surgery, and while your doctor will prescribe a pain medication plan to ease your comfort, it’s important to remember that everyone’s pain experience is different. If you are experiencing severe pain that is not relieved by the medication, elevation and therapy, make sure you consult your surgeon.

Got a question or anything I can help with? My name is Steve Stretton, and I’m the owner and manager at Gelpacks.com. You can drop me a line here. Good luck!


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