Nerve tests and carpal tunnel syndrome

Nerve tests are sometimes used to check median nerve function when symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are present. The nerve conduction velocity (NCV) test measures the speed of electricity as it moves through a nerve. An electromyogram (EMG) records the electrical activity of nerves and muscles, which shows nerve or muscle disorders.

If you have carpal tunnel symptoms, nerve tests may or may not be appropriate for you. Before you have nerve tests, consider the following:

  • Nerve tests are not helpful in every case. A few people with carpal tunnel syndrome have normal nerve test results.1
  • When work-related carpal tunnel syndrome is evaluated, nerve tests are almost always done.
  • Nerve tests are usually completed before surgery is done. Nerve tests may confirm a diagnosis and thus prevent unnecessary surgery. If there is nerve damage, surgery may be considered to prevent permanent damage.


  1. Griffin LY, ed. (2005). Carpal tunnel syndrome. In Essentials of Musculoskeletal Care, 3rd ed., pp. 321–327. Rosemont, IL: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Last Updated: October 29, 2008

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