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Diving after Carpal Tunnel Surgery

Carpal tunnel release surgery can make more room for the median nerve and tendons to move freely in the narrow passageway of the wrist.

Even so, the determining factor of when you can scuba dive after having this kind of surgical operation will be how long the nerve has been compressed.

Basics about Carpal Tunnel Release Surgery

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful condition and mostly a "congenital predisposition" (meaning it runs in families).

Even though some people have smaller carpal tunnels than others, the contributing factors can also include:

Pro Tip: In general, the symptoms start off slowly and get worse over time, tending to be worse (more painful) on the thumb side of the hand.

What Happens after Carpal Tunnel Surgery?

After the release, you should expect to be wearing a heavy bandage or a splint for up to two (2) weeks. During the recovery period, doctors usually encourage patients to wiggle their fingers around to help prevent stiffness.

You should also expect to have some pain in your hand and wrist (usually controlled with oral medications). Plus, it may help to decrease the swelling if you can keep the affected hand elevated while you sleep.

Here's the thing:

Most patients need to undergo a physical therapy program after the surgeon has removed the splint. Thus, motion exercises will help you improve the general movement of your wrist and hand.

The exercises tend to speed up the healing process and strengthen the wrist area. Nonetheless, some individuals may need to continue wearing a brace for several weeks after surgery before they experience full function.

The recovery period for post-operative carpal tunnel surgery can be as short as a few days, or it may be as long as a few months. In other words, some people will need to adjust their job duties - and others may need to take time away from work while they heal.

How Soon Can I Return to Normal Activities (Diving)?

You shouldn't try to scuba dive until you have completely healed from the operation. The determining factors will include the severity of the carpal tunnel syndrome and the type of surgical procedure used:

Put another way, everyone heals at a different pace. The surgeon will be monitoring how well you're healing and how many follow-up appointments will be needed.

But wait - there's more:

It's fair to say that scuba diving is "equipment-intensive" and some of it is heavy too! Plus, having a weakness in dexterity or fine motor controls may cause a safety concern (for yourself and for the group you're diving with).

In addition, having to wear a thick neoprene wetsuit (or a drysuit) will inevitably apply some extra "compression" to the wrist area.

But, having an operation involving nerves and tendons is not necessarily considered as common contraindications for scuba diving. Once the healing process is complete, and your physician releases you for unrestricted activities, you should be able to make a full return to diving.

Medical Complications after Surgery

After receiving any medical intervention, there should always be some concern about the increased risk of bubble formation. This is particularly so where the disruption of blood supply has left increased or decreased vascularity (relating to blood vessels).

In other words, even after being cleared fit to dive, it is best to note any neurological deficits and disclose them to people that need to know (e.g. your dive buddy, the dive operator).

Pro Tip: As with all medical procedures, Divers Alert Network (DAN) recommends getting cleared by your treating physician before participating in full and unrestricted activities, including making a full return to scuba diving after carpel tunnel surgery.

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