You’ve done the easy part: you’ve consulted with a doctor about your hand issues and now you have a surgical appointment on the books to help fix the problem.
The next step is surgery and recovery, and although it’s a relief that your symptoms will soon be improved, you may be feeling nervous about the surgery and the road to recovery ahead, which is perfectly natural.
Luckily, there are some things you can do to keep busy before your appointment to prepare for your surgery and recovery process ahead of time so after your procedure you can focus on healing.
Tips for Preparing for Hand Surgery
In addition to following your surgeon’s instructions like lab testing, taking certain medications, or not eating the day of surgery, there’s a number of things you can do ahead of time to ensure for a smooth recovery down the line:
1. Consult Your Calendar
With hand surgery, the initial recovery period is projected to last anywhere from a few weeks to several months depending on the procedure, you will need to adjust your routine and scheduled activities based on your recovery. Hand surgeries are booked in advanced, so fortunately you can take care of rearranging future appointments or meetings ahead of time, rather than scrambling to cancel or reschedule an appointment the day of.
2. Arrange for Helpers
Remember that after surgery, you will be doing most things one-handed. Having an extra set of hands to help you with your recovery and around the house can make your recover period all the easier. You should arrange for someone to drive you to and from the surgery and perhaps even stay with you for the first few nights following your surgery. Make sure to ask whomever you decide on well in advance (not the night before your surgery!) so they have enough notice to rearrange their schedule if need be.
3. Prep Your Home Ahead of Time
When you get out of your surgery, you won’t feel like cleaning your house or doing your laundry, and chances are you won’t be physically able to for a period of time. Prepping your home before your procedure insures you’re all set up for a stress-free recovery. This includes: going grocery shopping to stock your pantry, prepping dishes and freezing them for quick meals, stocking up on paper and plastic products so you do not have to do the dishes, basic clean-up and arranging furniture, and laundering easy-to-put-on loose clothing with wide armholes.
4. Plan for Your Pet
Your cat or dog isn’t going to understand why their owner can’t suddenly play tug-of-war, go for a walk, or empty a litter box after surgery. To care for your pet and keep them entertained, it’s a good idea to have a plan in place for their care. This may include having a friend come over once a day to take care of your pet, or arranging for someone to host and look after your pet while you’re recovering.
Tips for Hand Surgery Recovery
After you’ve had your surgery, your hand surgeon will give you specific instructions for how to care for your hand following surgery, including medications, exercises to complete, and follow-up appointments, but there’s a few more tips we’ve learned from experience:
1. Keep Your Hand and Arm Elevated
Raising your hand and arm above the level of your heart minimizes swelling and pain after your surgery, especially for the first 3-5 days. Reminding yourself to do this is key. Arranging your house so you home so you have places to elevate your hand, like having extra pillows in bed to prop your arm up, or having chairs with armrests in rooms you frequent, is a great trick for reminding yourself to keep your arm elevated for optimal healing.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. Listen To Your Body
It’s expected you will experience some discomfort after hand surgery, and your doctor will prescribe a pain medication plan to ease your comfort, but it’s important to remember that everyone’s pain experience is different. If you are experiencing severe pain that is not relived by the medication, elevation, and therapy, make sure you consult your surgeon.
Prep Ahead of Time for A Speedy Hand Surgery Recovery
Hand surgery recovery can be a slow and frustrating process, but it has its rewards. Each day you get better little by little, and by making sure you have a set plan in place for your recovery and are following your hand surgeon’s prescribed care regiment, you will be on track to restore your hand’s function, grip strength, and dexterity .
Keeping these tips in mind will ensure for a stress-free recovery!
Interested in learning about other hand and wrist conditions? You can find more information about other conditions we treat, including carpal tunnel, trigger finger, tennis elbow and more here.
Looking for ways to prevent workplace joint ailments? Check out our tips for preventing hand, wrist, and elbow injuries at work.
Suffering from a hand, elbow or wrist ailment you sustained at work? As a local, experienced hand specialist, Dr. Garcia provides expert care for a variety of hand, wrist and elbow conditions, including those that occurred in the workplace. He’s the trusted hand and wrist doctor for patients in Saratoga, Lake George, Queensbury, and throughout the Adirondack region.