Tinel’s Test for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

If you have pain, tingling, or numbness in the hands and wrist, you must visit a medical professional, usually a neurologist, to determine the cause of your symptoms. When you visit your doctor, they may perform what is known as Tinel’s Test, or Tinel’s Sign, to determine if there are irritating nerves in the wrist. This is one of the most common ways to diagnose Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or CTS, a common repetitive strain injury and one of the leading causes of workers’ compensation claims in the United States today.

Here’s some basic information on this test and how it works to help diagnose Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

What is Tinel’s Test?

Tinel’s Test, formerly known as the Hoffman-Tinel Sign, is a simple test that doctors use to check for nerve issues. It is most commonly used to diagnose Carpal Tunnel and is one of the first tests that most doctors will reference when attempting to diagnose CTS, a condition often caused by a repetitive strain injury at work.

However, Tinel’s Test can also be used to test for other, similar nerve issues such as Cubital Tunnel Syndrome and Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome as well as injuries to the radial nerves. The test is quick, non-invasive, and can give your doctor a lot of valuable information.

How Does Tinel's Test Work?

After your doctor listens to your symptoms and concerns, he will likely check for Tinel’s sign using a simple test. He will start by determining which nerve is likely compromised by asking you where you feel pain, numbness, or tingling. Typically, three main nerves are tested with this method.

The Ulnar Nerve, which is located at your elbow can be tested if your doctor thinks that you have Cubital Tunnel Syndrome. If you have tingling in your inner foot, near your heel, your doctor may examine the Posterior Tibial Nerve for Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome. Of course, if you have tingling in your forearm, wrist, fingers, and palm, your doctor will check the Median Nerve to help diagnose Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

With the nerve located, your doctor will start lightly tapping over the affected nerve along its pathway in the body. This tapping is gentle and relatively painless, but your doctor will be looking for a tingling sensation that radiates outward. Also known as paresthesia, this reaction will let your injury doctor know that there has been damage to the nerve he or she is tapping on.

What Positive Tinel’s Test Results Mean

When your doctor performs this test on your nerves, he will ask you to let him know when you start to feel a tingling sensation. If you do—this is a “positive” test result, indicating that this nerve is being compressed or restricted by a nearby ligament or tissue.

These compressions can happen over time or can be caused by injury, arthritis, obesity or stress from repetitive motion. From there, your doctor may recommend treatment options or do other tests to ensure the accuracy of his diagnosis. If you do not feel any tingling or sensation from the test, your doctor may determine you don’t have nerve damage or may perform other diagnostic tests as a follow-up.

If you are worried that you may be suffering from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, then you should schedule an appointment with your doctor right away. To find an experienced neurologist near you, call 1-800-897-8440 today.