What is an EMG?
Have you recently been referred for an EMG? Follow along as Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation physician, Dr. Neelay Thakkar, gives a comprehensive overview of EMG testing. Dr. Thakkar explains what an EMG is, conditions that are diagnosed with an EMG, what is involved with and how to prepare for an EMG, and when to expect test results.
What is an EMG?
The purpose of an EMG is to evaluate the function of nerves and muscles. There are two parts to this test, the nerve conduction study and electromyography. Typically EMG tests are conducted by a Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation physician or a neurologist.
What Conditions are Diagnosed with an EMG?
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Ulnar Nerve Compression
- Radiculopathy(pinched nerve)
- Nerve injury
- Unexplained numbness, tingling, or weakness
What is Involved with an EMG?
The first part of the test consists of the nerve conduction study. The patient is connected to electrodes, placed on various muscles of the hand, that sends electrical stimulation to the nerve, causing the muscles to contract. Patients often liken the experience to having a rubber band snapped against the skin or the slight shock sensation a person sometimes gets when touching another person.
The second part of the test is electromyography. Here a fine wire or pin with a recording device is inserted into various muscles that can detect nerve damage and test muscle function. The EMG portion of the test is similar to acupuncture.
This test typically involves minimal discomfort and is well tolerated by most patients. EMG tests are also relatively short and usually take 20-30 minutes to perform.
How Does a Patient Prepare for an EMG?
- Refrain from using lotions, creams, and oils the day of the test, as these products can alter the results of the test.
- Continue using current medications (including blood thinners) as prescribed.
- Patients who have an implanted device, such as a pacemaker or stimulator, should let the physician know before the start of the test. Typically this will not inhibit proceeding with the test but may impact how some portions of the test are performed.
- There are no aftereffects of the test, and the patient can resume normal activities immediately following the procedure.
When Can a Patient Expect Results?
Since EMGs are conducted by a physician, they are often able to analyze the results as the test is performed. In more complicated cases, the physician may want to take some extra time to review the results before sharing them with the referring physician.
The physician who performed the EMG will follow up with the referring physician, and the patient will typically schedule an appointment with the referring physician to go over the results and develop a treatment plan.