An EMG is an electrical test of skeletal muscle. There are two aspects of this test: the first is the muscle test, called the EMG. The second test involves the nerves - specifically the peripheral motor nerves and the sensory nerves - and is called a nerve conduction study, or NCS. When someone refers to an EMG, it incorporates both tests.
An EMG is a test of normal versus abnormal electrical activity in the muscles and nerves. If you have pain, numbness, burning, weakness, tingling or other symptoms of nerve irritation, they may be coming from an injury to either your peripheral nerves or nerve root. An EMG helps determine which it is, and can be a very useful tool in determining your treatment options.
The areas where a nerve comes out of the spinal cord are called nerve roots. From there they divide into nerve branches that become peripheral nerves. Many patients have radiating pain caused by pressure on nerve roots. This can occur when there are structural lesions of the spine such as herniated disc, bone spurs, and/or degenerative arthritic narrowing. In simple terms, if a person has a pinched nerve in the spine or extremity, an EMG can determine where it is pinched, how severely it is pinched, and if there is evidence of permanent or temporary damage. It can also distinguish between injury to different types of nerves and differentiate nerve trauma from nerve disease.
The value of the testing is in trying to accurately determine the location and severity of the injury. From there, the physician can best determine whether the patient needs a procedure and what kind of procedure.
We are proud to have on staff a specialist in electrodiagnostic medicine, Dr. Luke Garcia. He is board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and in Pain Medicine. He has over 9 years of experience interpreting EMG tests on patient’s with muscle and nerve types of pain.
An EMG is a very safe diagnostic exam, although there can be some mild discomfort involved. The test typically takes between 20-30 minutes depending on the complexity of the test and number of abnormal findings.
Patients can take all of their medication prior to testing. The only restriction required is that no lotion, cream, or body oil be used prior to the test because electrodes will be stuck to the skin to record the nerve responses. If we cannot easily access the hands, arms or legs, you will have to change into a gown.
Your EMG report will be completed on the same day as your test, and sent to your referring physician or primary care provider within 24 hours. you will be able to speak with you physician or primary care provider about the result of your EMG at your next visit.