My daughter had carpal tunnel surgery last week but says she still has just as much pain as before the operation. How long does it take for the pain to go away?
Some patients experience immediate reduction in pain, numbness, and tingling -- symptoms that are so common with carpal tunnel syndrome. Others develop some swelling postoperatively and that fluid puts pressure on the median nerve reproducing the same painful symptoms that were present before surgery.
It can take 10-days to two weeks for the symptoms to start to subside and go away. Most patients don't need hand therapy after carpal tunnel release surgery, but those who have persistent symptoms may benefit from a supervised program of exercises to restore full nerve mobility. The therapist will teach the patient how to do exercises that help the tendons and nerves that go through the carpal tunnel to move smoothly and easily.
No one knows for sure why symptoms persist or come back after carpal tunnel release. It's possible some tiny sensory nerves to the skin got cut. It's possible that fibrosis (scarring) is holding the median nerve down and keeping it from moving.
If time and/or this type of conservative care doesn't resolve the symptoms, a repeat (second) surgery may be needed. The surgeon will go back in and make sure the ligament and any scar tissue or adhesions are fully released. Symptoms that persist a year after surgery aren't likely to go away. Surgery is usually indicated in those cases.
Isam Atroshi, MD, PhD, et al. Open Compared with 2-Portal Endoscopic Carpal Tunnel Release: A 5-Year Follow-Up of a Randomized Controlled Trial. In The Journal of Hand Surgery. February 2009. Vol. 34-A. No. 2. Pp. 266-272.
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