Home/Post-Op Hand Care

Post-Op Hand Care

Hand and Upper Extremity Post-Operative Instructions

Following surgery, a post-operative appointment will be scheduled with your hand surgeon typically 10-14 days after surgery.

Frequent post-operative concerns are addressed below.

If you have any questions do not hesitate to call your Doctor’s office. Phone calls are answered around-the-clock.

Click on your procedure of interest below to know what steps you need to take after surgery

Common Concerns After Hand Surgery


Swelling is expected following surgery. Reducing swelling helps speed recovery and will decrease pain.

Elevation is the best remedy for swelling. Keep your hand elevated above the level of your heart for 3-5 days. While sitting in a chair or lying in bed, place your arm on pillows to keep it elevated. While walking around, keep your hand elevated on your opposite shoulder. You may discontinue elevation when lowering the hand no longer causes it to throb.

Wound Care and Dressings

The post-operative dressing, splint, or cast is a very important part of your treatment. The dressing should be left intact until your post operative visit, unless specified in detailed post-operative instructions.

Frequently splints and casts will feel too tight, and you are welcome to loosen the outer compression (ace bandage) wrap, but please do not remove the entire dressing or adjust the plaster of any splint.

Place a large plastic bag over your dressing/splint when you shower or bathe to prevent it from getting wet. Place two rubber bands above the dressing/splint to keep the bag in place and to avoid leaking.

The dressings for minor procedures (trigger fingers, carpal tunnel, ganglions) are usually safely removed within the first week. After removing the dressing, the extremity can be safely washed with soap and water (but avoid soaking/submerging). Cover the sutures and incision with a Band-Aid and change the dressing as needed.


In general, care should be taken within the first several days following surgery to limit any strenuous activity. Elevations of heart rate and blood pressure can increase swelling and discomfort.

Gentle exercises with any exposed fingers are encouraged, and gently opening and closing of the digits will keep the small joints supple. Specific activities and exercises will be discussed at your first post-operative visit.

Medications and Allergies

Pain medication and occasionally antibiotics are frequently prescribed, and details regarding these medications can be addressed by your pharmacist.

In addition to prescribed pain medication, over-the-counter ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) can be taken every 4-6 hours as needed.

Pain medications can sometimes cause nausea, constipation, and itching. These are frequent “side effects” but rarely constitute a true allergy. Any new rash, difficulty with breathing, or swelling of the lips and face may indicate a serious allergic reaction, and you should alert your doctor.


In general, patients do not have specific restrictions following hand surgery.

But, since many pain medications and anesthesia can cause nausea, we encourage patients to begin with clear liquids and light foods. A normal diet can be resumed once these are well tolerated.

Numbness or Tingling

Decreased sensation for several hours following surgery is often from local anesthesia used during the procedure. Sometimes a “pain pump” is placed during surgery and numbness can persist until it is removed.

Please contact our office if numbness or tingling that was not present prior to surgery continues or increases.

Possible Infection

Infections following upper extremity surgery are uncommon. Please contact our office if you experience increasing redness in the finger/hand, redness spreading up the arm, or spiking fevers (over 101.5 degrees) as this may signal a serious infection.