What kind of exercises should I be doing after wrist surgery?

Wrist Pain


I just got my cast off from broken wrist surgery, (also broke pinky and ring finger). Doc wants to see me in four weeks. It hurts to extend fingers. What kind of exercises should I be doing? And what, if any pain meds should I take to help the exercises go better?


Thank you for your question. Sorry to hear about your wrist injury. While we cannot comment on your specific condition without doing a thorough evaluation, we can offer general advice for you to consider.
In general, when someone undergoes surgery to repair a broken wrist and/or fingers, bones that were fractured are lined up and pinned or screwed together. After surgery, the wrist and fingers are immobilized for a period of time which helps with healing. This often results in tightness which eventually improves later on with treatment. During this time, it is generally recommended to avoid lifting anything greater than 1 lb or putting body weight through the wrist or fingers to avoid disrupting the healing process.

In general, once the cast is removed, gentle passive range of motion exercises for the wrist and fingers are initiated depending on how much the healing is visible on an x-ray. For “passive” exercise, it is recommended to use the opposite hand to gently stretch the wrist and fingers in all directions. In general, it is recommended to hold stretches for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Because bone is not fully healed at this stage, it is important to avoid stretching aggressively. Passive range of motion exercises should be completed 3-5 times per day without a brace on. Eventually, passive range of motion will progress to active range of motion, followed by strengthening, based on the surgeon’s recommendation.

It is common after a period of immobilizing the wrist to experience some discomfort and difficulty extending fingers. Often times, after body parts are immobilized, it is not unusual to see weakness in the muscles and stiffness in the joints as a result of disuse. Sometimes this weakness and stiffness can contribute to pain when someone is getting back to their normal activities. As bone continues to heal and wrist and finger motion improves, extending the fingers should gradually become less painful.

As far as pain meds go, we recommend contacting your primary care provider, surgeon, or pharmacist before taking any new medication. It is important to check with your doctor to make sure it is safe to take based on your medical history. If approved by your doctor, taking anti-inflammatories such as Tylenol or ibuprofen can help provide short-term symptom relief. In addition, applying ice for 15-20 minutes and elevating the wrist above the level of the heart can help minimize discomfort and swelling.

We recommend seeing a physical therapist who can perform a thorough evaluation and provide recommendations for your specific condition while communicating with your surgeon. A physical therapist can help guide you through stretches and strengthening exercises when appropriate to assist you with your recovery.

Please note, this reply is for informational purposes only. It’s not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, physical therapist, or other qualified health provider with a medical condition.

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