Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Elbow FAQ

Question:

I went to the doctor to find out why I keep getting electric shocks down the inside of my forearm. One of the tests was to tap the nerve inside the elbow with a reflex hammer. Nothing really happened during the test. What is this test for, and what does it show the doctor?

Answer:

You may be referring to a test called Tinel's test. The doctor uses his or her hand or reflex hammer to gently tap the ulnar nerve as it passes close to the skin along the inside of the elbow. If the test causes pain, numbness, or tingling down the arm, then the test is considered positive for ulnar nerve entrapment. Another name for this problem is cubital tunnel syndrome (CuTS).

This test by itself isn't considered reliable. In at least one-third of all normal adults tested, Tinel's test was positive when there was nothing wrong. This is called a false positive test.

The doctor must rely on a series of tests to confirm or rule out CuTS. This may include the patient's history, clinical exam, and special tests. Tinel's test will be one as well as the elbow flexion test and perhaps even a test of electrical impulses along the nerve.

Stuart H. Kuschner, MD, et al. Evaluation of Elbow Flexion and Tinel Tests for Cubital Tunnel Syndrome in Asymptomatic Individuals. In Orthopedics. April 2006. Vol. 29. No. 4. Pp. 305-308.

*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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