Hand Surgery Recovery: What You Need to Know

Written by: Jamie Swickard

Medically reviewed by: Dr. Jeff Gittins

What Is the Typical Hand Surgery Recovery Time?

Recovering from hand surgery can range anywhere from a few days for simpler procedures to a few months following complex reconstructive surgery.

It has been theorized that the attitude and outlook of the patient play a prominent role in recovery time following orthopedic hand surgery. The better the attitude and outlook of the patient, the shorter recovery time is thought to be. More importantly, the severity of the injury and procedure also plays a role in the length of recovery time.

The general timeline for recovery usually begins 24 hours after the surgery, with the patient visiting the physician in the office to have bandages removed to ensure proper healing of the surgical wounds.

In some cases, the physician will consider beginning light physical therapy to encourage blood flow to the arm and hand since they are immobile at this point in time. Around two weeks after the procedure, the splint and stitches will be removed with a wound check to ensure no infections or other complications.

Three to five weeks after that appointment, the patient will still be experiencing some swelling and/or stiffness. After six weeks, the patient should be able to return to work as long as it does not require strenuous lifting and will continue with their physical therapy exercises.

Whether you have recently undergone hand surgery or are anticipating a possible future hand surgery due to a current hand or wrist condition, be sure to schedule a consultation to speak to one of our highly skilled hand surgeons. Our orthopedic surgeons will educate you about how to handle the recovery process. Call us or book an appointment online today!

How to Reduce Swelling from Hand Surgery

Swelling is always a significant concern for any surgeon postoperatively. While this is an inevitable postoperative outcome, physicians want to minimize swelling as much as possible to prevent complications, such as a wound reopening and further hand pain.

In order to reduce swelling after hand surgery, it is recommended to keep the hand and arm above the heart level as much as possible, starting immediately after the surgery and lasting for the next three to seven days postoperatively. 

What Should I Do During My Hand Surgery Recovery Period?

Commonly, the physician will provide postoperative instructions they would like you to follow. However, there is a list of general do’s and don’ts that will encourage healing and prevent complications. 

The patient must monitor their overall health both before and after surgery. For example, if patients have diabetes, they need to regulate their sugar levels. It is also vital that the patient follows a healthy diet consuming proteins and complex carbohydrates.

Postoperatively, it is important to take the correct medication prescribed and follow the surgeon’s orders and rehabilitation plan as closely as possible. Lastly, limiting life stress will allow for a smoother recovery. 

What Should I Avoid After My Hand Surgery Healing Process?

It is essential to avoid smoking during recovery time. Smoking has proven to slow the wound’s healing time, ultimately slowing down the overall recovery time. It is also important to limit alcohol intake as this can hinder the patients’ sleep, which is important for healing time and strengthening the immune system.

Drinking alcohol while also taking narcotics postoperatively can cause complications. Using the hand and arm too soon after surgery can cause healing and overall recovery problems. The surgeon will explain when it is appropriate to increase the range of motion in order to avoid stiffness. 

What to Wear after Hand Surgery

Depending on the type of surgery performed, a splint may be placed on the patient and will be left on for around two weeks to prevent premature range of motion. As the patient continues to heal, they may be placed in a brace and begin hand therapy. It is important to consult the physician if any concerns arise regarding wound healing. Patients often wear plastic bags around their casts when showering to protect the healing area.


If you have chronic pain in your hand and want to ask an expert about hand and finger surgery recovery, then give us a call at OrthoNeuro. Our physicians treat many conditions, such as tendonitis, carpal tunnel, arthritis, fracture strains, and more. They will educate you about what to expect with the recovery process and assist you with a customized care plan. Call us or book an appointment online today!

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