April 29, 2019

What to expect during recovery from a hand, wrist or elbow injury

Hand, Wrist and Elbow


A hand, wrist or elbow injury can be a seemingly small injury that has a huge impact on your daily activities. At times, recovery can be challenging and seem endless. However, it’s important to stay motivated to recover in order to return to your daily activities.

Dr. Robert Falender, OrthoIndy hand, wrist and elbow specialist, provides tips for recovery after hand, wrist or elbow treatment and what to expect.

“Recovery after injury is a combination of potential surgical treatment and hand rehabilitation or hand exercises,” said Dr. Falender. “Although it can be frustrating waiting for swelling to go down or pain to completely go away, it’s normal. Recovery can take a long time and it’s an ongoing process.”

What you need to know about recovering from a hand, wrist or elbow injury

  • Stay positive: Coming back from an injury can be difficult and discouraging at times. However, it’s important to stay positive during recovery and rehabilitation. Follow the directions of your hand therapist and physician.
  • Expect difficulty: We use our hands for almost all of our daily activities, so not having one available can be frustrating. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and rely on others for tasks when necessary, such as:
    • Driving: You may not be able to drive for some time after an injury to the hand, wrist or elbow, arrange for someone to take you places.
    • Getting dressed or using the bathroom: Removing your clothing or putting it back on may not be possible to do by yourself.
    • Cooking and cleaning: Daily chores will be difficult to do with one hand; prep meals in advance or count on others for help.
  • Expect swelling: Swelling is always present after injuries of the hand and wrist. To decrease swelling, elevate your injured hand and follow your hand exercises.  Occasionally, swelling may persist long-term, which may require you to upsize a ring.
  • Arrange your home:
    • Have chairs with armrests in the rooms you normally sit in, so you can easily rest your recovering hand.
    • Stock up on straws as cups or mugs may be difficult to lift to your mouth.
    • Because we use our hands automatically, place stickers or Post-its on heavy or awkward items to remind yourself not to reach for them.
  • Keep your dressing dry: Follow your doctor’s instructions for taking care of your dressing and bandages. Use a plastic bag to keep your dressings and bandages dry while showering.

Common hand, wrist or elbow injuries and recovery time

According to Dr. Falender, hand surgery recovery lasts several weeks, but more than likely it can take several months to fully regain function and mobility.  

“Recovery time is an estimate based on the needs of the patient, the treatment process and what kind of job or sport they are returning to,” said Dr. Falender. “Every patient’s recovery is different and it’s important they allow themselves enough time to heal.”

Additionally, some activities may be easier to do than others. For example, you may be able to return to typing or office work but you might not have full range of motion, this takes time.

“Your hand surgeon will recommend you work with a hand therapist who can teach you exercises to help you move your wrist or hand and make them stronger after treatment,” said Dr. Falender. “They can also show you how to ease the strain on your hand or wrist during your daily or work activities.”

Learn more about OrthoIndy Physical Therapy

Estimated recovery time for hand, wrist or elbow injuries

Broken bones take six to eight weeks to heal but full recovery from an injury to the hand or wrist can take four to six months, and sometimes even longer. It depends on the severity of the injury and the treatment method.

OrthoIndy Physical Therapy has certified hand therapists, also referred to as occupational therapists, that can assist you during your recovery process. A hand therapist will help you with exercises to regain movement and strength in your wrist or hand. They will also help you return to your daily activities and work tasks.

Relieve pain from hand, wrist or elbow injuries

Schedule an appointment

Your well-being is important to us. Click the button below or call us to schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic specialists. If your injury or condition is recent, you can walk right into one of our OrthoIndy Urgent Care locations for immediate care. For rehabilitation and physical therapy, no referral is needed to see one of our physical therapists.

Schedule an Appointment Call OrthoIndy 317.802.2000

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