Do I need hand therapy after my carpal tunnel surgery?

This is a common question. Another one is, ‘Should I ask my doctor for hand therapy after my carpal tunnel surgery?’

What is carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS)?

CTS is a syndrome identified by symptoms such as numbness, tingling, pain and weakness of the fingers. The thumb, index finger and middle fingers are affected. It can also identified by occasionally or frequently dropping things from the hand. This is all due to the constriction of the carpal tunnel in the area of the wrist causing pressure and damage to the median nerve. The Median nerve innervates some of the muscles of the hand and thumb, and feeling to the fingers.

When surgery is necessary?

Hand therapy can treat carpal tunnel conservatively, meaning without surgery, very successfully. Although in some cases, the carpal tunnel syndrome is too severe and needs to be managed with surgery. While it is a simple surgery for a hand surgeon or orthopaedic surgeon to perform, it is minimally invasive and there is a recovery process.

Often I see patients in the clinic after surgery once problems have occurred. Hand pain, decreased motion and strength, and thick scar tissue are just a few of the common issues that can occur after a carpal tunnel release. These symptoms can occur because of the lack of knowledge of how to manage your hand and arm after the surgery.

What should I do after my carpal tunnel release?

Ideally, after your surgery you will attend hand therapy. If addressed right away only 1-2 appointments may be necessary. Your hand therapist will instruct you on exercises, wound care, scar management, and strengthening. You will address what activities you should and should not do, including returning to work and the restrictions that may be necessary. Having knowledge early will assist you in getting you back to your daily life and work more smoothly.

Do I need a referral?

You do not need a referral to attend a hand therapy appointment as a private pay or private insurance patient. A referral is necessary if you are with the Medicare plan, Work Cover, or TAC. Contact your hand therapy clinic if you have questions.

Moral of the story…

Yes, hand therapy is a great idea after carpal tunnel release / surgery. If your doctor doesn’t mention it, be assertive and ask. You will have all of your questions answered by your hand therapist. We want your hand moving quickly and will guide you on the best way to get you to full recovery without over or under-doing it.