Carpal tunnel syndrome manifests as pain, tingling, burning, itching, or numbness in the palm, thumb, index, and middle fingers. You may also experience weakness in one or both hands when holding things. One way to know if you have carpal tunnel is through a carpal tunnel syndrome test at the doctor’s office. Your doctor will do various tests to diagnose the condition and rule out other hand and wrist pain causes.
What Can You Expect During a Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Test?
The doctor may start by asking you questions regarding your medical history. They will then examine your hand, shoulder, arms, and neck to determine if the pain results from another underlying condition like arthritis or injury. They will also want to ensure that daily activities are not responsible for the pain and tingling.
The doctor will focus on your wrist to see if the area is warm, swollen, tender, or discoloured. They will also test each finger to see if you’ve lost any feeling and check the strength of the muscles in your arm and hand. After that, the doctor will do tests that focus on the median nerve. The median nerve runs through your palm into your hand. When this nerve gets compressed or squeezed, it results in carpal tunnel syndrome.
What Does a Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Test Actually Involve?
There are a few tests that are used to diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome. Specific movements and positions trigger the symptoms, while others help gauge the loss of feeling and muscle weakness. The tests may involve:
Nerve Conduction Velocity Test
This is a commonly used test since it provides the most accurate results of carpal tunnel syndrome. The test helps measure how fast an electrical signal travels along a nerve to the muscle. The specialist will place a small electrode on your skin close to the elbow. The electrode sends an electric current down your median nerve. If the current takes longer to travel from your elbow to your fingers, it indicates damage to the median nerve.
This is mainly conducted after a nerve conduction velocity test and measures muscle functioning around the median nerve. The doctor will place a small needle electrode into your hand and arm muscles that get impulses from the median nerve. The electrode sends impulses into your muscle. You will be asked to flex or relax your hand during the test to determine if your median nerve is damaged or being squeezed unnaturally.
The doctor will press or tap on your median nerve in the wrist with a reflex hammer. A diagnosis is confirmed if the patient feels an electric shock-like sensation or the fingers tingle.
Two-Point Discrimination Test
The test determines if you can distinguish between two objects touching your skin at two distinct points. The doctor will use a gadget known as a two-point disk-criminator, an eight-sided tool with needle-like ends protruding from all sides. The doctor will likely test each finger several times, starting with two points touching the skin a few centimetres apart and gradually moving them close together until you feel only one pressure point. The distance at which you feel only one point is used to test nerve function and compression.
The doctor may also use imaging tests like an MRI, X-ray and ultrasound to diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome. Such tests rule out other possible causes of hand and wrist pain. An X-ray will confirm whether you have a broken bone or arthritis. On the other hand, an MRI and ultrasound will show a compressed or swollen median nerve.
The tests will also show the doctor why your median nerve is being compressed. Your nerve could be compressed due to arthritis, an injury or carpal tunnel syndrome. If these tests are inconclusive, the doctor may order blood tests to diagnose diseases like diabetes which lead to nerve damage.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Surgery at The Harley Clinic
Conditions that affect the hand and upper limb may affect the quality of your life. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a serious condition that gets worse without treatment. If a diagnosis is positive, the doctor may recommend hand surgery followed by specialised hand therapy exercises to restore function and strength.
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