Carpal tunnel syndrome may start off as a nagging ache in your wrist from time to time, but eventually, it becomes so painful that it's hard for you to grip a screwdriver or type for a few minutes. Luckily, you don't have to live the rest of your life with this debilitating wrist pain. There's an orthopedic surgery that can correct carpal tunnel syndrome. It's known as carpal tunnel release. If you're been scheduled for this surgery or are being urged by your orthopedic doctor to have it, then you might have a few questions. You'll find the answers to these frequently asked questions below.

Where is the surgery performed?

Often the surgery is performed in an orthopedic surgeon's office or in a small surgical center. It's a rather minor procedure that does not require general anesthesia, so it does not need to be performed in a hospital — although you may go to the hospital for your procedure if that happens to be where your orthopedic surgeon's office is located.

What happens during the procedure?

Once you arrive and get settled in, your surgeon will give you a local or regional anesthetic. This will numb your arm; you won't be able to feel a thing. You will probably also be given an IV sedative. This won't put you fully to sleep, but it will make you quite groggy and very relaxed so that you are not bothered by the fact that someone is operating on your arm. Don't worry; your arm will be behind a sheet during the procedure, so you won't be able to see what's going on.

To perform the surgery, your surgeon will make an incision down your wrist. The incision is usually only two or three inches long. Once inside, they snip the ligament that is constricting your median nerve. Then, they suture your wrist back up.

What happens after the surgery and during recovery?

When the sedation wears off, your arm will be wrapped up in a thick bandage and will probably be in a sling. You will have to return to the doctor's office to have your bandage changed and your incision checked a few days after surgery. You'll probably have to lay low and rest for one to two weeks, and then you can slowly resume activities, but while wearing a splint. Full recovery usually takes about 6 weeks.

Carpal tunnel release is a simple procedure, and an effective one. Talk to an orthopedic surgeon to learn more.