Patient Information

Bones and joints leaflets

Hand Therapy Department
Ipswich Hospital
01473 703 312

MCP joint replacement advice for osteoarthritis

You have had surgery to replace one or more of your knuckle (MCP) joints. This will help to reduce your symptoms of pain and swelling, and improve the position of the fingers. Most patients find that their new joints do not allow as much movement as before surgery, but this should not affect your function.

Immediately post-surgery 

After the surgery, your hand and wrist will be in a theatre dressing, with plaster inside, for approximately one week.

You must keep your hand elevated to prevent swelling and stiffness. Please remember that for the first few days you should not walk with your hand dangling by your side, or sit with your hand held in your lap, as this will increase the swelling.

If you experience any excessive pain, swelling or tenderness around the wound it may indicate an infection. In this case, you should seek advice from your consultant.

One week post-surgery

Hand therapy plays an important part in your recovery and you will be required to attend hand therapy sessions regularly for the first six weeks.

At least one splint will be made for you between one and two weeks after the operation and you will need to wear this for around eight weeks post-surgery.

The hand therapist will teach you exercises aimed at regaining flexibility and strength in your hand. You will need to perform these exercises in the splint at home, four times per day in the first few weeks, reducing the frequency over a three-month period:

  • Bend your fingers down at your big knuckles only (keep the fingers straight).
  • Keeping the big knuckles straight, bend the small joints of your fingers.
  • Slide your thumb across your palm towards the bottom of your little finger.

Two weeks post-surgery

It is important to start to massage your scar in firm circular movements with a low-allergy moisturising cream. This will help to soften the scar tissue, improve its appearance and help to prevent any adhesions under the skin.

Three weeks post-surgery

Your splint may need adjusting and your exercises/ scar massage may be checked.

Six weeks post-surgery

Six weeks after your operation, you may begin to use the hand for light function such as washing, dressing and picking up coins. You will need to continue wearing the splint overnight for a further two weeks.

8 to 12 weeks post-surgery

You will be encouraged to gradually increase the use of your hand.

You will be advised when it is safe for you to stop using the splint, safe to return to driving and when it is appropriate for you to return to work.

Pain relief

Taking regular pain relief medication can help reduce your pain, improve your sleep and enable you to complete your exercises more effectively. Please make sure you follow the instructions on the packet.

General advice

There are several lifestyle factors that can impact your general wellbeing and your body’s ability to heal. These include a healthy balanced diet, regular exercise and getting a good night’s sleep. Stopping smoking, and drinking no more than the recommended limits of alcohol could also improve your overall healing.



If you would like to make a request for a leaflet to be produced in a different format please see our PALS contact page in order to contact the team and make a request. If you require a translation please see our translation information page. ESNEFT are actively attempting to achieve accessibility regulation compliance under the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No.2) Accessibility Regulations 2018.

© East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, 2021.
All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced in whole, or in part,
without the permission of the copyright owner.

Back to top