Wrist fractures and other types of injuries sometimes necessitate surgery. Because upper extremities are such a crucial part of many daily activities, proper recovery is important for getting back to normal life. Knowing what to expect during the recovery process may help you plan for the weeks and months to come.
What to Expect During Wrist Surgery Recovery
Wrist surgery recovery varies from individual to individual and depends on the type of injury, but in general, the recovery timeline includes:
- Week one: In the first week after surgery, you may have a bandage or dressing that should be kept clean and dry. Your doctor may instruct you on the proper care and cleaning of the surgical site. You might also have a splint or cast to keep your wrist immobilized, which you may need to wear for 4-6 weeks.1 A doctor may prescribe pain medication for the first few days after surgery to help alleviate any discomfort you might have. Swelling is also an issue immediately after surgery, so try to keep your arm elevated and talk to your doctor about the possibility of cold therapy.2
- Week two: Within the second week, you should have a follow-up appointment with your doctor to remove any sutures and check the progress of your recovery. At this time, you may receive a removable brace or a cast, depending on the complexity of the surgery.3
- Weeks 3-8: After the initial recovery period, you may work with a physical therapist to learn exercises that may help increase range of motion, build strength, improve flexibility, and reduce scarring. In most cases, physical therapy needs to wait until your cast is removed—typically around the six-week mark. If the healing process is going well, your physical therapist may introduce more aggressive therapeutic exercises. In general, you may be able to do most low-impact daily activities in about six weeks, and your physical therapist may shift the focus to strengthening activities at this point.3
- Week 12: Depending on the surgery, most people return to normal activity after about three months.1
Although the recovery process always takes time, there are a few steps you can take along the way to aid your recovery. Getting ample rest, stabilizing the affected joint, and using cold and compression therapy may ease the recovery process by helping with pain and swelling.
Speak with your doctor if you are interested in cold and compression therapy for your recovery.
- Wrist fracture reduction & fixation. Proliance Orthopedic Associates. https://www.prolianceorthopedicassociates.com/wrist-fracture-reduction-fixation. Accessed December 10th, 2019.
- What you need to know about recovering from hand or wrist surgery. Premier Orthopaedics. https://www.premierortho.com/protecting-your-wrist/need-know-recovering-hand-wrist-surgery/. Published 2015.
- 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 December 10th, 2019.