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Side Effects of Carpal Tunnel Surgery

author image Virginia Franco
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Side Effects of Carpal Tunnel Surgery
A patient discusses his options of Carpal Tunnel with his doctor. Photo Credit: Thinkstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images

The carpal tunnel is a band or ring in your hand that resembles a tunnel in its appearance. It is made from bone and tight fibrous tissues that, when cut as part of carpal tunnel surgery, cause the band to change shape. As a result, nerve pressure disappears along with many of the symptoms associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. While most side effects associated with carpal tunnel surgery are considered mild, it is nevertheless wise to consider them when weighing the pros and cons of having this surgery.

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Swelling in the hand is a common side effect immediately following carpal tunnel surgery, referred to by doctors as carpal tunnel release. Fortunately this side effect is easily addressed, according to For a few days following surgery, simply keep your hand elevated above your heart via a splint or by placing your hand on pillows when resting. The swelling should quickly subside with these small efforts.


Nerve damage that existed prior to surgery can result in numbness post-surgery. This may compromise your ability to make a full recovery in that hand, according to the The textbook recommends physical therapy for the hand to help minimize this side effect.


Referred to as "pillar pain," mild pain or discomfort where your palm ligaments are attached to the bone is common after carpal tunnel release surgery. The pain generally subsides within 6 weeks after surgery. As with numbness, other aches or pains may be a result of previous nerve damage, and should be addressed with physical therapy if the pain persists beyond 6 weeks.

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