Electromyography/ Nerve Conduction Studies (EMG/NCS)
Electrodiagnostic testing studies evaluates the electrical activity of nerves and muscles to determine if nerves (and sometimes muscles) are functioning normally, i.e., healthy, or not. The results of these studies can help diagnose pain in the back, arms and legs, particularly if accompanied by numbness and tingling and especially weakness. Common nerve problems that these studies can help diagnose include radiculopathy (spinal nerve irritation or injury that leads to symptoms in the arms or legs with or without weakness), nerve entrapments (such as carpal tunnel syndrome, cubital tunnel syndrome, tarsal tunnel syndrome, peroneal nerve entrapment, etc.), foot drop and weakness in the arms and legs. Confounding conditions such as a common peripheral neuropathy can be identified or excluded as a problem. Like any diagnostic testing, the results often need to be interpreted considering other clinical information such as a patient’s history and physical exam findings and any pertinent imaging or MRI findings.
Does the EMG hurt?
Pain is a very personal experience and differs from individual to individual. An EMG is like a visit to the dentist. There is brief discomfort associated with the quick electrical shocks during NCS. Cramping of muscles can occur during the pinpricks of the needle EMG. The discomfort of the tests, though unpleasant, is tolerable and brief.