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5 ways to help reduce your hand and arm pain after surgery

Managing pain after surgery is important to maximise your movement, sensation and functional outcomes. Health Nest can help you manage your pain, but read some useful tips below of ways you can reduce your pain at home. These can make the difference between feeling comfortable after your surgery and wishing you never went near the surgeon in the first place!

1: Manage your swelling

Swelling is a natural response by the body when it has received trauma, even elective trauma like surgery. The body pumps fluid into an area to protect it and aid recovery, however managing swelling is particularly important when it comes to the hand to optimise healing and rehab.

Day 0-3 post-op – Rest! In the initially “inflammation phase” after surgery it is better to rest the area as moving it may increase swelling to further protect and immobilise the joint. We know you probably want to get back to all those normal things you do around the home – but make the most of having someone come to help – no need for pride here people!

Day 3 onwards – Continue to manage swelling

  • Rest – try not to overuse the injured area as this can make it swell more

  • Ice – a cold compress 20 minutes on 10-20 minutes off helps reduce the inflammation

  • Compression – will help move the swelling out of the area

  • Elevate – guides the swelling towards the heart.

  • Referral – seek advice from your health care professional if the swelling persists

2: Look after your wound

It is important to be vigilant in caring for your wound to promote quick healing of the tissues. Follow the directions given by your surgeon, doctor or therapist, these may include:

  • Regular dressing changes

  • Keep the dressing dry (if wet you will need to have the dressing changed so the skin underneath does not stay ‘soggy’)

  • Do not scratch your wound - If it is too itchy see your health care professional

  • Removal of sutures at the appropriate time, which is normally between 10-14 days

3: Desensitisation

If can be common for skin to feel ‘funny’ after surgery. This can because the nerves are feeling sensitive. Hypersensitive tissues and nerves can benefit from ‘desensitisation’ techniques such as massage, vibration, textures and immersion. These techniques give sensory feedback to the tissues about the different feelings that are within a ‘safe’ threshold. Regular feedback within this threshold educates the nerves and tissues to accept the different feelings and reduce hypersensitivity to the area.

4: Exercise!

The hand and arm is designed to move, and gentle controlled movement can assist in managing pain. Movement is important for maintaining joint range of motion, preventing tendons sticking, managing swelling and stimulating tissues. Gently movement and using your injured hand, only as directed by your surgeon and/or therapist, can assist reduced post-operative pain and prevent the onset of chronic pain. Be mindful to move the right parts so as not to undo any benefits from surgery – if you are not sure, that is what we are here for! You can call and ask us.

5: Don’t ignore your arm

Sometimes when we aren’t able to use our hand or arm as we would normally, we can get quite good at trying to ignore it. Pretend it is not there. This is because we are human and humans like to just get things done. We get frustrated when things get in the way of our productivity – like an arm in a plaster. If you find yourself ignoring your hand, you might be just letting it hand down by the side as if it was not there, or leaving it in a sling day and night and not giving it a second thought. Ignoring a body part can reduce our brains capacity for managing pain. Throughout the day, think about it, look at it, touch it and if you like.... talk to it!

If you have pain following surgery and are not sure what to do, you can call us. We work closely with the local surgeons, so even if you have never met us before, you can still call – we will be happy to provide some advice on what you should do.


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