CTR – Patient Sheet

Carpal Tunnel

What is Carpal Tunnel?

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when one of the major nerves to the hand (the median nerve) is squeezed or compressed as it travels through a tunnel in the wrist

What are the symptoms?

  • Tingling or numbness in the thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers
  • Pain
  • Weakness of the hand

What are the treatments?

  • Wearing wrist splints at night to keep the wrists from curling up
  • Minor surgery


Minor Surgery

What does the surgery entail?

  • Surgery is done in the clinic, using freezing medication (local anesthetic) that is injected into the wrist and hand to numb the area (similar to going to the dentist and having your tooth frozen before a filling)
  • Surgery takes about 10-20 minutes
  • We make a cut in the palm that is about 4-6cm long and release the ligament that is compressing the nerve

What should I expect after surgery?

  • You will have a light bandage on the hand that can come off after 48 hours, after which you can get the hand wet in the shower
  • The freezing in your hand may take several hours to wear off
  • You will need to return in 2 weeks to have the stitches removed and the wound checked


  • Your hand will be the most sore in the first day or 2 after surgery. It is normal to have swelling of the hand and fingers.
  • To help with swelling and pain, elevate your hand on several pillows as much as possible. Do not walk or sit with your hand dangling down. Use an ice pack at regular intervals.
  • Most people only need over the counter pain medications like Tylenol or Advil for pain


  • You can use the hand immediately after surgery for normal activities of daily living
  • Do not lift anything heavier than a coffee mug for 2 weeks post-surgery
  • You can drive when you feel you have enough finger and wrist movement to do so safely

After the first 2 weeks

  • Pain and swelling will gradually decrease. Swelling around the cut, and soreness after heavier use of the hand can last for 3-6 months.
  • Begin to massage the scar using pain lotion or oil for 5 minutes several times a day. This helps break down scar tissue and prevents painful sensitivity of the scar.


Call Your Surgeon If You Experience…

  • Redness and swelling around the cut that gets worst rather than better
  • Pain that is not controlled after following the instructions above
  • Green or yellow drainage from the cut
  • Fever or chills


Dr. Sarah Shiga, MD, FRCSC

Hand, Wrist and Reconstructive Plastic Surgeon
The Ottawa Hospital- Civic Campus
190 Melrose Ave, Ottawa, ON, K1Y 4K7
613-798-5555 ext. 19222