Tinel's Sign


What is Tinel’s sign?

Tinel’s sign is a tingling or “pins and needles” feeling you get when your healthcare provider taps your skin over a nerve. Tinel’s sign may be an indicator that you have nerve compression or damage where they’re tapping.

What does Tinel’s sign test?

Testing for Tinel’s sign is a way for your healthcare provider to assess for signs of nerve damage or nerve irritation at a specific site.

Does Tinel’s sign have another name?

Your healthcare provider may call this sign either Tinel’s sign or Hoffmann-Tinel sign. The names come from the people who first described it in 1915, physiologist Paul Hoffmann and neurologist Jules Tinel.

When do healthcare providers use Tinel’s sign?

Your healthcare provider may test for Tinel’s sign if they’re concerned about nerve damage or irritation at a specific site.

When might Tinel’s sign be useful?

Some examples of when your healthcare provider might look for Tinel’s sign include:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome: In carpal tunnel syndrome, pressure on your median nerve at your wrist causes symptoms in your hand and fingers.
  • Cubital tunnel syndrome: In cubital tunnel syndrome, damage to your ulnar nerve (sometimes called the funny bone) in your elbow causes symptoms in your hand and fingers.
  • Tarsal tunnel syndrome: In tarsal tunnel syndrome, your posterior tibial nerve gets compressed as it travels along the inside of your ankle. This can cause pain, tingling or numbness in your foot.

What are the symptoms of nerve compression or damage?

If you have nerve compression or damage, you may experience:

  • Burning.
  • Numbness.
  • Pain.
  • Tingling.
  • Weakness.

Who performs a Tinel’s sign test?

Any healthcare provider who’s looking for signs of nerve compression can test for Tinel’s sign.

Test Details

How do I prepare for a Tinel’s sign test?

There’s nothing you need to do to prepare for a Tinel’s sign test.

What happens before a Tinel’s sign test?

Your healthcare provider will take a full history of your symptoms. This may include questions about any numbness, weakness or tingling you may experience. Tinel’s sign may then be tested as part of the physical examination.

What happens during a Tinel’s sign test?

A Tinel’s sign test procedure is simple. Your healthcare provider taps your skin above the nerve. They ask you to describe what you feel as they’re tapping.

What do the results of a Tinel’s sign test show?

If you have a positive test, you’ll feel tingling when your healthcare provider taps on you. This may indicate nerve damage or irritation at that site. If the test is negative, you won’t feel any tingling. Although Tinel’s sign can help your healthcare provider understand what’s going on, a negative test doesn’t exclude the possibility of nerve compression.

What happens after a Tinel’s sign test?

Depending on the result of the Tinel’s sign test and the rest of your history and examination, your healthcare provider may recommend more testing. This could include:

What are the risks of a Tinel’s sign test?

There aren’t any risks associated with a Tinel’s sign test.

Results and Follow-Up

When will I know the results of my Tinel’s sign test?

Tinel’s sign test results are immediate. You’ll know right away whether you feel a tingling sensation during the test. Your healthcare provider will then discuss the next steps in your care.

When should I call my healthcare provider?

You should talk with your healthcare provider if you experience signs of a damaged or irritate nerve. These symptoms may include burning, numbness or weakness.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I tap for a Tinel’s test?

It’s best to have your healthcare provider perform a Tinel’s sign test for proper diagnosis.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

If you experience symptoms of nerve compression or damage, a Tinel’s sign test can help your healthcare provider make a rapid diagnosis. You don’t need to live with numbness, pain or weakness. Talk to your healthcare provider about your symptoms, treatment options and what you can do to relieve discomfort at home.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/01/2022.


  • American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome. (https://www.acfas.org/footankleinfo/tarsal-tunnel-syndrome.htm) Accessed 4/1/2022.
  • American Society for Surgery of the Hand. Cubital Tunnel Syndrome. (https://www.assh.org/handcare/condition/cubital-tunnel-syndrome) Accessed 4/1/2022.
  • Ho T, Braza ME. Hoffmann Tinel Sign. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK555934/) [Updated November 21, 2021]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Accessed 4/1/2022.
  • National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Fact Sheet. (https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Carpal-Tunnel-Syndrome-Fact-Sheet) Accessed 4/1/2022.
  • OrthoInfo. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. (https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/carpal-tunnel-syndrome/) Accessed 4/1/2022.

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