I had carpal tunnel surgery and my wrist pain is gone but my grip strength is worse than before. Will I ever get back to full strength?

Studies show a significant decrease in grip strength after carpal tunnel surgery, especially when compared to the unoperated side. Most patients have about 80 per cent of their preoperative grip strength after the operation.

There are three types of grip strength: hand grip, thumb key grip, and tip pinch. Hand grip is measured by squeezing a grip tester called a dynamometer held against the palm in the hand between the fingers and thumb.

The thumb key grip is measured with the same position used to hold a key between the thumb and index finger. The tip pinch measures pinch strength between the pads of the thumb and index finger. This position would be as if you were holding a dollar bill between the pads of your thumb and first finger.

Thumb key grip is affected by carpal tunnel surgery. Thumb tip pinch may not decrease at all. The stronger your grip strength before surgery, the stronger it will be after surgery. Men and younger patients tend to have stronger grip in general before and after carpal tunnel surgery.

You should expect to regain your full grip strength within six to 12 weeks after surgery. You may have to do some rehab exercises if grip strength remains less than it should be or if you are kept from doing work or job tasks.

Reference: 

D. P. Forward, MRCS, et al. Preservation of the Ulnar Bursa Within the Carpal Tunnel: Does It Improve the Outcome of Carpal Tunnel Surgery? In The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. November 2006. Vol. 88-A. No. 11. Pp. 2432-2438.

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