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Electromyography (EMG)


The examination you are scheduled for is designed to assess the function of the nerves in your limbs. Your physician needs this information to determine precisely what is causing your symptoms and the best way to treat you.

Tests that will be done at your appointment:

  1. Nerve Conduction Test

a.      For this test, an alcohol pad or mild abrasive will be used to decrease the electrical resistance of the skin at the recording sites over the muscles and nerves, and felt tip pens will be used to mark recording and stimulation sites. Electrodes will be placed on your hand and arm or foot and leg, and several nerves will be stimulated with an electric current. This shock is stronger than the static shock you often get when you touch a doorknob after walking across a carpet, but it is very brief and is not dangerous.  Your muscles will twitch or jump to the shocks. The nerves will be stimulated at several places.

  1. Electromyogram (EMG)

a.      This is a recording of the electrical signals naturally generated by your muscles; you will not be shocked during this test. The EMG is similar to an EKG or Electrocardiogram, which records the electrical signals from your heart. The EMG records electricity in the muscles in your limbs, not the heart.

b.      The signals produced by these muscles are so small they cannot be recorded with electrodes placed on the skin, so a very small needle electrode will be used. This electrode will go through the skin into the muscle. This is a bit uncomfortable, but is not dangerous. The number of muscles that will be examined will depend on the findings of the tests as they are being done.

The two tests will provide a clear understanding of how your nerves are functioning. If there is a problem with any nerve, your physician will know which nerve is involved and where the problem is.

The results of the examination will not be available on the day of the exam. Each part of the testing is like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle, and until all of the pieces are reviewed at the same time (which can’t be done during the test), a final answer is possible. A report will be given to your physician who will review the results. You and your physician will then decide the best course of treatment.

On the day of your appointment:

  • Arrive at your scheduled time.
  • Do not wear any lotions or creams.
  • Women, please bring or wear a tank top if the study involves your neck or arms.
  • Bring loose-fitting shorts if the study involves your low back or legs.