EMG - Nerve Testing
Board Certified: American Board of Electrodiagnostic Medicine (ABEM)
Board Examiner: American Board of Electrodiagnostic Medicine (ABEM)
Presenter/Expert: American Association of Neuromuscular and Electrodiagnostic Medicine (AANEM)
What is an EMG?
Electrodiagnostic medicine is the study of diseases of nerves and muscles. Your doctor has recommended an EMG test to see if your muscles and nerves are working properly. The results of the tests will help your doctor decide what is wrong and how it can be treated.
Types of Tests
Nerve Conduction Studies: NCSs show how well the body’s electrical signals are traveling to a nerve. This is done by applying small electrical shocks to the nerve and recording how the nerve works. These shocks cause a quick, mild, tingling feeling. The doctor may test several nerves to determine the location and degree of nerve impairment.
Needle EMG: For this part of the test, a small, thin needle is inserted into various muscles to test for muscle injury. A new, sterile needle is used for each patient and it is thrown away after the test. There may be a small amount of pain when the needle is inserted. This may feel like a pinch and cause temporary soreness in the muscles. Our physicians test only the muscles necessary to decide what is wrong. There are no restrictions on activities before or after an EMG. Tylenol® or an ice pack can be used to relieve any minor irritation and soreness if needed. During the EMG test the doctor will be able to hear and see how your muscles and nerves are working by the way electrical signals travel from the needle to the EMG machine. The doctor then looks for patterns of muscle abnormalities that determine the origin of the problem.
Why did your doctor recommend an EMG for you?
You are having an EMG because you have numbness, tingling, pain, weakness, or muscle cramping. Some of the tests that we may use to diagnose your symptoms are nerve conduction studies (NCSs), needle EMG, and evoked potentials. Our physicians will take your medical history and examine you to decide which tests to do.
How long will these tests take?
The tests usually take 20 to 90 minutes. You can do any of your normal activities, like eating, driving, and exercising, before the tests. There are no lasting side effects. You can also do your normal activities after the tests.
How should I prepare for the tests?
Tell the EMG doctor if you are taking aspirin, blood thinners (like Coumadin®, Plavix®, etc.), have a pacemaker, or have hemophilia. Take a bath or shower to remove oil from your skin. Do not use body lotion on the day of the test. If you have Myasthenia gravis, ask your EMG doctor if you should take any medications before the test.
When will I know the test results?
The EMG doctor will discuss your test results with you or send them to your regular doctor. After the exam, check with the doctor who sent you for the test for the next step in your care.
What kind of medical training do doctors who do EMGs have?
Doctors who do EMGs go to 4 years of medical school then have 3 or 4 years more years of training in a residency program. Most work as neurologists or physical medicine and rehabilitation doctors. Medical training helps the doctor decide which tests to perform based on your symptoms. It teaches doctors what can go wrong with the human body and how to tell the difference between these problems.
Who does the testing?
The American Association of Neuromuscular & Electrodiagnostic Medicine’s policy is that an appropriately trained doctor should do all needle EMG testing. A trained assistant or technologist under a doctor’s supervision can do nerve conduction studies.