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All That Hurts and Tingles Isn't Always Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a common problem when the median nerve inside the wrist gets pinched, squeezed, or damaged. In fact, CTS is the most common nerve problem reported in the United States. Symptoms are usually wrist and hand pain, numbness, and clumsiness using the hands. Some patients have writer's cramp, muscle fatigue, or sensitivity to cold in the fingers. In severe cases, there is weakness and wasting of the hand muscles.

The doctor uses the symptoms and several tests to diagnose CTS. Diagnosis can be difficult, especially when the symptoms are not the usual pain and numbness. Sometimes doctors order electrodiagnostic tests. These tests are used to stimulate muscles and nerves to see how well they are working.

Electrodiagnostic tests are an important part of the process to find CTS. However, only about half of the patients tested this way actually have CTS. This has led researchers to look for better ways to predict who has CTS and who needs this kind of testing.

They looked at symptoms of patients who had positive electrical results. Five symptoms were found that are predictors of abnormal electrodiagnostic tests. These include symptoms at night, symptoms that last several months to one year or more, numbness and tingling, and thumb muscle weakness and wasting. The presence of these symptoms will help doctors know when to send someone for electrodiagnostic tests.


Julian K. Lo, MD, FRCPC, et al. Community-Based Referrals for Electrodiagnostic Studies in Patients With Possible Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. What is the Diagnosis? In Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. May 2002. Vol. 83. No. 5. Pp. 598-603.

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*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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