Post-Op recovery time and general info


I had open Carpal Tunnel surgery on both hands on 7th March 2013.

Im 21 and I work for a health care company, I spend a lot of my day soldering and assembling small components which require a lot of pinching (holding soldering iron, tweezers etc). I have been in this job for 2 years. I have also been weight training for the last year and a half.

I first started getting symptoms in the evening after work with tingling and numbness in my hands. After chatting with friends and work colleagues I was told it could be RSI, so I went to the doctors and straight away my GP diagnosed it as RSI (by asking questions and flexing and extending my wrists), I was then signed off work for 2 weeks and performed nothing to strenuous or drove in that time.

After I returned to work I had a chat with my manager and we agreed that I could perform "light duties" (jobs without the pinching or constant repetitive actions) for a few weeks.

Things got no better and in mid December 2012 I went to see the company doctor. She went into a bit more depth than the previous doctor and we had a long chat about what I do both inside and outside of work. She was certain I had CTS and that the main cause for it was the weight lifting I was doing 3 days a week. She advised i stopped the weight lifting and said I would see an improvement within 3-4 weeks. She then said she would refer me to a hand specialist who would perform some nerve conduction studies and chat about the possibility of surgery.

In early 2013 I went for my appointment with the hand specialist and straight away after speaking about my symptoms he said he was happy to operate without any nerve studies.

A few months later I had my surgery on both of my hands. I did NOTHING for the first 11 days after my surgery, I then had my stitches out and started to gain some general strength back (lifting kettle, opening doors, turning lights on etc). My surgeon advised i didn't drive until i had my stitches out (i didn't actually drive until 5 weeks after surgery). After 4 weeks I was due to return to work but I felt it was to early to go back after such serious surgery, so I was signed off for another 2 weeks. So after 6 weeks I returned to work and was put "light duties" - albeit for ONE day. The second day I was asked to go back onto an assembly job which requires screwing, holding tweezers and writing. Obviously I wasn't happy with being placed back on this certain job after it being the main cause of my CTS. So I had a meeting with my Team Leader and she advised I went back to my GP, who immediately signed me off for a further 2 weeks.

During this time I was once again unable to get any real normality back to my life as I felt weak and wasn't sure i wanted to return to this job as it was causing me such a big issue.

After nearly 9 weeks off work I returned on May 1st and had a meeting with my manager, team leader and a member of human resources. The meeting was very positive and filled me with confidence about the way I would be eased back in and given time for things to heal.

For the first 3/4 weeks I was having daily chats with my team leader and all the jobs I did were organised by both her and myself. Since then I have been doing the same jobs as before my Op. Repetitive work for 8 hours a day - Assembly, soldering, de-assembling and other jobs which require constant repetitive movements.

Now on to my life outside of work - I returned to the gym after 5 months off from doing any weight lifting activity (2 1/2 months after surgery). As soon as I returned to the gym I had a chat with my friend who is gym manager at the gym I train at, he advised i had forearm massage and started back with some very light training. He then created me a personalised 6 week programme which I followed religiously. I have recently had my first forearm massage too. I drive 45 miles (round trip) to work everyday and occasionally play my XBOX (max 2 hours a week).

So at the moment my average week looks like this:

Monday: Commute 22 miles - Work 8:00-4:00 - Gym (core/legs): 4:15-5:15 - Commute 22 miles home
Tuesday: Commute 22 miles - Work 7:30-4:00 - Commute 22 miles home
Wednesday: Commute 22 miles - Work 7:30-4:00 - Gym (core/pushing): 4:15-5:15 - Commute 22 miles home
Thursday: Commute 22 miles - Work 7:30-4:00 - Commute 22 miles home
Friday: Commute 22 miles - Work 8:00-3:00 - Gym (core/pulling): 3:15-4:15 - Commute 22 miles home
Saturday: General tidying, washing, clean car
Sunday: Out with family, girlfriend (nothing to strenuous)

I have recently qualified as a Level 2 gym instructor and am looking to get into that as a career, but I cannot start a new job with the risk of having to have more surgery in the future. I also want to start the next level which involves a lot of coursework but am unable to as it means I would have to do a lot of writing.

Anyway, in the last few weeks I've been getting serious pains in my forearms and also get the odd spell of numbness in similar areas as before (more toward the thumbs rather than the middle who fingers). I haven't done any weight training for the last two weeks. I returned to my GP last friday and she offered me pills and advised I stopped the weight lifting as it was the main cause of the pain. I refused the pills and said I wanted more information and reassurance that it will not return with the current job/lifestyle I have, she then said she would refer me back to the specialist who performed the operation back in March. And I should hear within 4-6 weeks.

Apologies for the long post, I'm just so sick and tired of the worry this has given me the last year and am looking for a way forward and a way to get away from the pain I'm currently in. I'm only 21 and being so restricted as to what I can do (even outside work) is so frustrating and is causing me so much trouble. I went fishing with my brothers earlier and am now in pain from reeling the line in (only someone with CTS would know the pain)!

I've included all the information I have just in case there are other people experiencing the same problems as me and wish to advise me on anything I should/shouldn't be doing.

Thanks in advance to anyone who replies.



That's a very good story to illustrate just how disruptive an allegedly 'minor' operation can be for some patients. It is of course a great pity that they did not bother with nerve conduction studies before surgery and did not try any other non-surgical treatment for CTS. If you can remember what they felt like before surgery it would be interesting to answer the symptom questionnaire on here for the situation as it was then. If the same symptoms are coming back now then nerve conduction studies and imaging at this point may help to clarify what is going on but would be a lot more useful if we had pre-operative results to compare with. It does sound as though you are a very heavy user of your hands, both for work and recreation and the outcome of carpal tunnel surgery does tend to be worse when this is the case I am afraid - at least if you want to go back to doing the same things after the operation. JB


Thanks for your reply.

I went to see the hand specialist on Tuesday and he said that the pains I am experiencing aren't to do with the nerve (big sigh of relief) and that they are coming from the forearm muscles which were obviously weakened post surgery.

I have been referred to a physiotherapist and I have another appointment to see the specialist in 2 months time.

I'm going to rest as much as possible over the next few months and I'm confident the physiotherapy will help me get some kind of normality back into my life.

Hope this helps anyone who is experiencing similar issues.

The best thing is that the pain has to stop at some point so you have to stay positive.



You will see from reading other posts on this forum that most surgeons, when confronted with a patient who has problems after carpal tunnel decompression, are keen to blame something else other tthan CTS or anything they might have done for the persisting problem! Your forearm msucles should not be  weak after carpal tunnel surgery - the surgeon is not supposed to have been anywhere near them. I suppose the obvious question to ask is - are the forearm symptoms now similar to what you had before surgery, or does this feel like a completely different problem? JB


I realize this post is rather old but I wanted to agree with that person who replied to you previously. Such a liability for a doctor to operate without the nerve assessments. And the fact that you didn't move your hands for 11 days is concerning too. I had both hands done on December 23, 2013 and while it SUCKED totally, I was told by my doctor to move my hands the minute I wake up from surgery. He said to try to do everything I am used to doing like brushing hair, teeth, restroom, etc. and to just use common sense. (obviously there are things that are just not possible) He said not moving and not stretching it is setting the patient up for a prolonged and painful recovery. He said I could even go back to typing the same day but not to do too much. The key to healing and not losing arm strength was to push yourself. I doubted it at the time but did what he asked. It hurt to go back to work and type all day but I took breaks and did my best. I can honestly say that I eased back into work and was back at it full swing within a week of having the surgery. When I got the stitches out and was able to move my hands more freely the pain REALLY set in. The feeling of the nerve tings (like someone is strumming your nerves like a fiddle) put me in bed for an entire day! I couldn't believe how bad it hurt and how irritating it was. But it didn't last long. I cannot imagine not moving for the 1st 11 days -- how completely shocking and ghastly the pain would be if you weren't easing into full mobility. I truly hope you found out what is wrong -- you are so young to be afflicted with such a debilitating issue. Don't get me wrong, I am still feeling throbbing and painful tightening for much of my day even after 8 weeks but it isn't the same kind of pain you had.


We've been talking quite a bit about the differences in post-operative regimes between surgeons after carpal tunnel surgery and when I have time to synthesise it all into something suitable for general reading I'll put it here on the site somewhere, probably linked to the section on surgical treatment. So far however I think the evidence is in favour of early mobilisation of the hand after operation. JB

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