Tests and diagnosis

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Your doctor may conduct one or more of the following tests to determine whether you have carpal tunnel syndrome:

  • History of symptoms. Your doctor will review your symptoms. The pattern of your signs and symptoms may offer clues to their cause. For example, because the median nerve doesn't provide sensation to your little finger, symptoms in that finger may indicate a problem other than carpal tunnel syndrome.

    Another clue is the timing of the symptoms. Usual times when you experience symptoms due to carpal tunnel syndrome include while holding a phone or a newspaper, gripping a steering wheel, or waking up during the night.

  • Physical examination. Your doctor will conduct a physical examination. He or she will test the feeling in your fingers and the strength of the muscles in your hand.

    Pressure on the median nerve at the wrist, produced by bending the wrist, tapping on the nerve or simply pressing on the nerve, can bring on the symptoms in many people.

  • X-ray. Some doctors recommend an X-ray of the affected wrist to exclude other causes of wrist pain, such as arthritis or a fracture.
  • Electromyogram. Electromyography measures the tiny electrical discharges produced in muscles. During this test, your doctor inserts a thin-needle electrode into specific muscles. The test evaluates the electrical activity of your muscles when they contract and when they're at rest. This test can determine if muscle damage has occurred and also may be used to rule out other conditions.
  • Nerve conduction study. In a variation of electromyography, two electrodes are taped to your skin. A small shock is passed through the median nerve to see if electrical impulses are slowed in the carpal tunnel. This test may be used to diagnose your condition and rule out other conditions.

Your doctor may recommend that you see a doctor trained in brain and nervous system conditions (neurologist), brain and nervous system surgery (neurosurgeon), hand surgery, rheumatoid arthritis, or other areas if your signs or symptoms indicate other medical disorders or need additional treatment.

Apr. 02, 2014