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Electromyography (EMG)

IN-HOUSE DIAGNOSTIC TESTING

Providing fundamental information for your diagnosis

Electromyogram, commonly referred to as an EMG, is an electrical study of muscle. It is a type of electrodiagnostic testing used to help determine if there is evidence of nerve or muscle injury contributing to your symptoms.

The EMG test helps to clarify if there is any ongoing nerve and muscle damage. This is especially helpful when exam findings or other diagnostic tests are not clear. Electrodiagnostic testing cannot tell you the cause of nerve or muscle damage, it only confirms details of the damage.

Benefits of Electromyography (EMG)

  • Often pain, numbness, and weakness in the arms and legs can be due to a pinched nerve in the neck or back. An EMG can help us find which nerve is pinched so that we can target it with treatment.
  • An EMG can also help us identify damage to nerves in the arms or legs that can cause numbness and weakness, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, cubital tunnel syndrome, and other nerve injuries.
  • Other causes for weakness that is muscle related instead of nerve related.

Electromyography (EMG) FAQ

How is an EMG Performed?

An EMG is a two part procedure.

  1. The first part, the nerve conduction studies, tells us about the health of the nerves in the extremities. We mimic the electric signal from your spinal cord with a small electric shock at one part of the nerve and record that impulse at another part of the nerve or at a muscle supplied by that nerve. This part tells us if the individual nerve is conducting that electric signal properly. What you will feel when we stimulate is a small stinging sensation that goes down the arm or leg.
  2. The second part, electromyography (EMG), involves placing a small needle with a microphone into several of your muscles. We listen to the muscles while they are resting and while they are active. This part tells us if the muscles are injured, and the pattern of injured muscles can determine if the problem is in the nerve in the extremity, the nerve root, the nerve plexus, or the muscles. You may feel discomfort with the needle in your muscles. This sensation tends to be similar to acupuncture or dry needling.

Taken together, these tests can tell us where in the nervous system the signal is interrupted on the way from the brain to the muscles.

How long does an EMG test take?

An EMG can last anywhere from 30-90 minutes, depending on what question we are trying to answer. Based on what we are finding, sometimes we may have to add a couple extra nerves or muscles, which may make the test last longer.

What happens if an EMG test is abnormal?

We believe in performing our own testing in our office to make sure the entire test is done appropriately. The results are important and can help our non-operative and operative team determine a treatment plan specific for the patient. Your surgeon can review the results to make a specific surgical plan.

Is an EMG test painful?

The small electric impulses will feel like brief stings. There will be a small pinching sensation when the needle is placed into the muscles. You may have mild soreness where the needles were placed after the test. The technician and the provider will be with you during the test to monitor you.

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Dr. Niteesh Bharara

Orthopedic Specialist - Non-Surgical Sports Medicine
Director of Regenerative Medicine

Dr. Sommer Ebdlahad

Neurologist

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Reviewed by: Dr. Niteesh Bharara.