Post-Hand Surgery Swelling: The Power of Elevation & Movement Introduction


Swelling after hand surgery is a natural part of healing, but managing it effectively is key to a faster, more comfortable recovery. While slings provide support, the principles of elevation and strategic movement are your most powerful tools against post-hand surgery swelling and stiffness. Let’s delve deeper into how to optimize these techniques.

Why Elevation Matters: Fighting Gravity’s Pull

Understanding how gravity works gives you an edge in the battle against swelling:

  • The Fluid Challenge: After surgery, excess fluid accumulates in your hand, causing swelling and discomfort.
  • Concrete: swelling contains all the constituents of scar tissue and therefore if you let the swelling sit there it will set like concrete and hamper your rehabilitation enormously.
  • Gravity Assist: Elevating your hand above the level of your heart lets gravity help drain this fluid, promoting natural healing.
  • Reduced Pressure: When your hand is elevated, the blood vessels experience less pressure, which aids in further reducing swelling.

Key Takeaway: It’s not just about wearing a sling; it’s about positioning your hand correctly within it to reap the benefits of gravity.

Mastering Elevation Techniques

Here’s how to make elevation work for you throughout the day:

  • Aim High: The goal is to keep your hand consistently above the level of your heart for maximum swelling reduction.
  • Pillow Support: Prop your hand and entire forearm on multiple pillows while sitting or lying down. Experiment with the number of pillows for optimal comfort and elevation.
  • Sling Smarts: Adjust your sling to truly support your hand above your elbow. If your hand dangles down, the sling isn’t fulfilling its purpose.
  • Recliner Relief: Recliners offer a built-in elevation advantage, making it easier to relax in the right position.
  • Nighttime Needs: Consider using pillows to elevate your hand even while sleeping to maintain consistent swelling control. Same principle of having your hand above your heart still applies.

Key Takeaway: Make elevation a habit. The more diligent you are, especially in the initial days after surgery, the better your results will be.


Movement: Your Secret Swelling Reducer

The right kind of movement is integral to successful swelling management and preventing stiffness:

  • Beyond Wiggling: While gentle motion is key, aim for controlled, purposeful movements of your uninvolved joints (fingers, wrist, shoulder) through their full range of motion.
  • Pumping Action: Moving your fingers and wrist, if you are able and allowed, helps “pump” excess fluid out of your hand, aiding in lymphatic drainage.
  • Listen to Your Body: If movement causes significant pain, pause and rest. I’ll guide you on when and how to gradually increase your range of motion.

Key Takeaway: Elevation and movement work in tandem. Elevation reduces swelling, creating a more conducive environment for effective movement to further resolve swelling and restore function.


Your Path to a Smoother Recovery

By harnessing the power of elevation and strategic movement, you actively take charge of your healing:

  • Comfort is Key: Reduced swelling translates to less pain and a more comfortable recovery experience.
  • Empowering Yourself: Understanding these simple principles gives you a sense of control and confidence in self-management.
  • Open Communication: I’m here to support you! Share questions or concerns about swelling, and I’ll tailor your care plan accordingly.

Prioritise elevation and purposeful movement throughout your healing journey for optimal hand function.


The information provided in this blog is intended for general knowledge and informational purposes only, and does not constitute medical advice. It is essential to consult with a qualified healthcare professional for diagnosis, treatment recommendations, and any questions related to a medical condition. The author, contributors, and publisher of this blog shall not be liable for any direct or indirect losses or damages related to the use of the information presented herein.

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Meet Ali Phillips, Your Orthopaedic Hand and Trauma Surgeon

Ali Phillips is a fellowship-trained hand surgeon dedicated to educating and empowering his patients. He believes in clear information and shared decision-making. When not in the clinic, you might find him wing foiling or on a cycling adventure. Connect: @ali.thehandsurgeon on IG, Twitter/X, Threads, FB and TikTok. Find out more: About page