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How to Diagnose Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

There are a number of methods that can be used to diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome. Your occupational healthcare provider may conduct one or more of the below tests to diagnose CTS in employees. 

Background of Symptoms

A healthcare provider will review the pattern of symptoms, including the nature of pain, numbness, and tingling, as well as when these symptoms occur. Symptoms of CTS usually tend to occur at night, or the injured worker may experience numbness in the affected joint upon waking up in the morning. 

Physical Examination

The company’s healthcare provider will perform a thorough physical examination of your employee’s hand, assessing the sensation in their fingers and the strength of the muscles in the hand. Many individuals may experience triggered symptoms by actions such as bending the wrist, tapping on the nerve, or applying pressure directly on the nerve during this examination.


Your healthcare provider can recommend an X-ray of the affected wrist only to exclude any other causes of wrist pain, including arthritis or fractures.


The healthcare provider can also request an ultrasound of the employee’s wrist. An ultrasound can help get a good picture of the bones and nerves and determine whether the nerve is being compressed.


Electromyography helps in assessing the minute electrical discharges generated in muscles. It is performed by the healthcare provider inserting a slender needle electrode into your employee’s specific muscles to analyze electrical activity during muscle contraction and relaxation.

An electromyography test is instrumental in identifying potential damage to muscles under the control of the median nerve. Healthcare providers also use it to rule out other conditions.

Nerve Conduction Study

A nerve conduction study is a variation of electromyography wherein two electrodes are affixed to the skin. The healthcare provider will administer a minor shock through the median nerve to assess if electrical impulses are delayed within the carpal tunnel. This study serves as a valuable diagnostic tool for the condition and helps exclude other potential causes of wrist pain.

Blood Tests

A blood test may also be recommended to determine any other underlying causes that may be contributing to CTS, such as inflammatory disorders or diabetes.