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Recovering from surgery for ulnar nerve compression

Te whakamātūtū i te pokanga kōpeketanga akaaka kōwhiti


Seek help as soon as possible if you:

Recovering from ulnar nerve decompression is gradual and usually takes six or more months. But if you've had tingling that comes and goes, this may get better immediately.

Pain relief

Take two paracetamol (Panadol) tablets every four to six hours. If you need stronger pain relief, take one to two codeine phosphate 30 mg tablets as well. You can take codeine at the same time as you take paracetamol. But do not take more than eight paracetamol and eight codeine phosphate in any 24-hour period.

You'll be given a prescription for some pain relief when you leave hospital and can talk to your GP if you need more.

Managing at home

You may be advised to keep your hand dry until your surgical wound has healed. You can cover your arm in a plastic bag taped to your arm to allow you to shower.

You may find it easier to sleep if you put pillows and blankets under your arm when you go to bed.

Using your arm

You can move your hand freely after surgery. Gently open and close your fingers and bend and straighten your wrist and elbow in the way your surgeon shows you. This is to reduce the swelling and stop your joints from becoming stiff. Start this as soon as you've had your surgery, repeating five to six times a day.

You can start using your hand for light activities straight after surgery. For example, you can do tasks that involve using or gripping with your fingers (using a pen, knife and fork or keyboard), but avoid heavy lifting or gripping.

If you've had surgery to your elbow, you'll need to avoid heavy lifting and repeatedly bending your elbow for two to three weeks. You may be off work for up to two weeks depending on your job. Your surgeon will discuss this with you.

Once the wound has closed over, lightly massaging the scar can reduce its tenderness and sensitivity. It can also prevent the scar from becoming too thick.

Because you will not be using your arm for many everyday activities you should exercise your shoulder several times a day to prevent stiffness in your shoulder. You can do this with two simple movements:

Pain will limit what you can do for around six weeks, but you should get better week by week. If you aren't making progress, your surgeon may refer you to a hand therapist for more exercises and to manage your scar.

Speak to your GP if you're worried about how you're recovering.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed June 2022.


Page reference: 351690

Review key: HIWAH-240323