Whether you enjoy extreme sports (misty mountain hopping, anyone?) or just golfing the fairway to heaven, wrist injuries happen. Some of them, like fractures (a.k.a. a broken bone) might require surgery. If you do need surgery, proper recovery is important so you can ramble on with your favorite activities.

Of course, “proper” recovery depends on the type of injury and the type of surgery. Be sure to follow your surgeon’s instructions at every phase: right after surgery, a few weeks into recovery, and long-term. If you want to know how long it takes to recovery from wrist surgery, keep reading. 


Whole Lotta Pain: Reasons You Might Need Wrist Surgery

One reason is a distal radius fracture (DRF). Let’s, uh … break that down real quick: The radius is one of the bones in your lower arm—the one closer to the thumb. Distal means “far from,” so we’re talking about the part of the bone that’s farther away from the rest of your body, near the wrist instead of the elbow. 

DRF is a common injury that can happen to people of any age. Like any broken bone, it can often be fixed by putting on a cast to keep you from moving the arm while the bone heals. Other times, the bones are unstable or broken into many pieces. In that case, a simple cast might not be enough to make sure it heals without limiting your range of motion or causing more pain. A surgeon might need to use pins, screws, or metal plates to hold the bones together. (1)

Another common wrist surgery is carpal tunnel surgery (or carpal tunnel release). The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway inside your wrist, between bones and a ligament (one of the bands of tissue that holds bones together), where an important nerve passes through. Swollen or injured tissue can press on this nerve and cause serious pain. In carpal tunnel release, a surgeon cuts the ligament to take pressure off the nerve. (2,3)


Bring It On Home: Wrist Surgery Recovery Timeline

Week 1 

Because surgery requires cutting—even if it’s a small cut—you’ll have a bandage or dressing over the incision and may have stitches. Keep the bandages clean and dry to prevent infection. (4) For both carpal tunnel release and DRF surgery, you’ll have a splint to keep the wrist from moving. (2,3,4) A splint isn’t a cast, but don’t take it off unless your doctor says you can. 

Recovering from surgery is also painful, but the pain can be controlled. Take any prescribed or over-the-counter pain medicine as your surgeon directs. Since Surgery itself is a kind of injury, so there will be swelling in the area. Make sure to lift your arm over your head frequently so blood and fluid don’t collect near the injury. (3) Talk to your doctor about cold therapy or cold and compression therapy. (More on that later.)


Week 2

You’ll have another appointment with your surgeon to make sure your wrist is healing. The surgeon will probably take out any sutures (stitches) at that time. They’ll also give you a removable splint or brace that you need to wear for 4-6 weeks. (1,2)

Weeks 3-6

There’s a reason why the surgeon may give you a removable brace instead of a cast after the splint is gone. Studies show that starting to move the hand, wrist, and arm after surgery can strengthen muscles and help speed up recovery. (5,6) 


Week 7 and Beyond

Most people can return to regular activities after about three months. After carpal tunnel release, some people still have pain and numbness that goes away after a few months. (3) Sometimes, surgery to repair DRF can cause carpal tunnel syndrome and other complications. (7) If you’re still having pain after a few months, talk to your doctor, who may refer you to a hand therapist or occupational therapist. (3,7) 


What Actually Helps Wrist Surgery Recovery

Doctors who once recommended not moving the wrist for at least six weeks are mostly singing a different tune. (The song does not remain the same.) In fact, research shows early movement helps recovery after wrist surgery. (1,8)

Always listen to your doctor or physical therapist about what kinds of movement you should do during your recovery, from gentle stretching to light resistance training. A recent study suggests that cryotherapy (cold therapy) reduces pain and swelling during recovery, and another showed evidence that pneumatic compression (squeeze-and-release) while the wrist was immobilized in a cast or splint contributed to more strength during exercises after the cast or splint came off. (5)

In case you didn’t know, the Game Ready system offers both cold and pneumatic compression therapy. The clinically proven Game Ready system integrates cold and compression therapies to help reduce pain and edema - outperforming  traditional RICE methods and other devices. (9) Ask your surgeon if Game Ready might be right for your wrist surgery recovery. 



  1.  Distal Radius Fracture (Wrist Fracture). Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/distal-radius-fracture-wrist-fracture. Accessed May 2024.
  2.  Carpal Tunnel Release. Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/treatment-tests-and-therapies/carpal-tunnel-release. Accessed May 2024.
  3. Torborg L. Mayo Clinic Q and A: Recovery After Surgery for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome—What’s Normal and What’s Not. Mayo Clinic News Network 2019. https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/mayo-clinic-q-and-a-recovery-after-surgery-for-carpal-tunnel-syndrome-whats-normal-and-whats-not/ Accessed May 2024.
  4. After Your Distal Radius Fracture Surgery. Seattle, WA: UW Medicine; 2013. https://orthop.washington.edu/sites/default/files/hand-center/Post-Surgery-Distal-Radius-Fracture-July-2013.pdf. Accessed May 2024.
  5. Moreno-Montoya CL, GĂłmez-Bernal KB, and Rodriguez-Grande EI. Effect of Physiotherapeutic Interventions in People with Distal Radius Fractures: A Systematic Review. J Faculty of Medicine (Universidad Nacional de Colombia) 2017;65(4):665-672. https://doi.org/10.15446/revfacmed.v65n4.60778
  6. Corsino C, Reeves R, and Sieg R. Distal Radius Fractures. StatPearls (National Library of Medicine). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK536916/. Updated August 2023.
  7. Rehab After Wrist Fracture. Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/all-childrens-hospital/services/pediatric-sports-medicine/injuries/shoulder-elbow-conditions/rehab-after-wrist-fracture. Accessed May 2024.
  8. Bhan K, Hasan K, Pawar A, and Patel R. Rehabilitation Following Surgically Treated Distal Radius Fractures: Do Immobilization and Physiotherapy Affect the Outcome? Cureus 2021;13(7):e16230. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8343619/
  9. Hochberg J. A Randomized Prospective Study to Assess the Efficacy of Two Cold-Therapy Treatments Following Carpal Tunnel Release. J Hand Ther 2001;14:208-215.