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Helpful Tips When Preparing for Arm or Hand Surgery

“Working with a knowledgeable hand therapist can make the difference between success and failure in complex hand surgical cases. The therapist extends the continuum of our care, as well as functioning as coach and trainer for our patients.”

Marybeth Ezaki, MD, Past President, American Society for Surgery of the Hand

In Phoenix Rehab, our senior hand therapists are experienced licensed and dedicated therapists (physiotherapists and/or occupational therapists) who specialized ONLY in the rehabilitation, treatment and management of painful fingers, hands, wrists, forearm & elbow conditions, because of interest, passion and expertise.

What types of clothing are easiest to put on after surgery?

  • For hand and arm surgeries, you have to consider that you may be using one arm to get dressed after surgery, so preparing loose fitting or elastic-type clothings are often easiest to manage.
  • Also, a cast may not fit into a small sleeve, so a larger sized shirt or one with cuff buttons may be needed.
  • A tank top with snaps sewn into the shoulder is helpful if shoulder motion is limited.
  • Sports bras and camisoles may be simpler to put on.
  • Slip-on shoes, flip-flops or Velcro-secured shoes are often easiest to wear.

A tank top with snaps sewn into the shoulder and Velcro-secured shoes as pictured are examples of clothing to wear following arm surgery

What are ways to be more independent with self-care tasks after surgery?

  • Large trash bags can be used to cover non-waterproof casts during bathing activities (you will have a surgical wound that will need to be protected from water until it is healed and stitches are removed).
  • Handheld shower heads are easier to manipulate and to shower with.
  • Consider toiletries with easy pump tops, electric razors for shaving and having assistance with washing, drying and styling hair.
  • Wipes and spray bottles can be purchased to improve cleanliness.
  • Thought should be given to what feminine hygiene products will be easiest to use.
  • A washcloth put on the bottom of the sink can be used to scrub against for one-handed hand washing.
  • Hand sanitizer can also improve cleanliness after using the restroom.

If it is possible, practice toileting tasks with the opposite hand in the weeks prior to surgery >> this is very beneficial if you can practice this earlier, to improve finesse and adaptability

What other activities are important to consider after surgery?

  • Ask for easy-open tops at the pharmacy when medications are filled and store them in a safe place.
  • An alternative is to ask family or friends to divide out medications into a weekly pill container.
  • Pillows, extra blankets or surgical foam pillows can be used to position the arm or hand (you can consider our bed wedge which is firmer).
  • Check with the surgeon to see if there are rules about sleeping positions. Sometimes the most comfortable position will be sitting up. Consider what furniture is available that will be comfortable and supportive enough to sleep on.
  • Prepare meals ahead of time and freeze them in small serving sizes to easily manage with one hand. These meals can be reheated as needed; however, thought must go into how hot items will be carried with one hand.
  • An electric can opener and food processor may also be helpful.
  • Driving will likely be restricted, so consider pre-arranging transportation for doctor or hand therapy appointments with our senior hand therapists.
  • While riding as a passenger, be aware of movements of the car that can be painful.

Easy-open medication bottle

What can a hand therapist do for me?

Recovering from an injury or surgery will take time, effort and patience.

While our senior hand therapist uses a variety of treatment approaches to assist with the return to normal arm or hand function after surgery, we can also assist in preparing for surgery.

Our senior hand therapist will suggest different ways to perform daily routines and will be able to recommend adaptive equipment, which will improve everyday function and overall independence.

Read related article: Hand therapy after hand surgery