has anyone here had an EMG done before?

By mona70277 Latest Reply 2011-12-23 09:49:38 -0600
Started 2011-08-07 00:59:56 -0500

my dr. decided at my last appointment that it is necessary for me to have an EMG done as i have almost no ability to use my left arm any more(at least for 2 or 3 months anyhow) and have had a constant pain in it from my neck to my wrist.its a different pain then i suffer from in my legs,feet,and toes caused from neuropothy. she explained to me that although she herself has never had one done,many of the patients that she has sent to have one done say that it is painful and never wanted to go through one again.she explained this to me because she decided to have my arms and legs done and promised that it would all be done at the same time. well,i got my appointment letter in the mail today,and SUPRISE-its 2 appointments…the 16th and the 19th. the explanation of extremity is upper extremity,lower extremity,and bilateral. is an EMG painful?will any of my medications effect this test? what are they looking for when they do an EMG?what exactly do they do when they do an EMG?has anyone in this community ever had one? i am really scared!!! please if anyone knows anything about having an EMG done,give it to me straight…i need to be able to prepare myself mentaly,no matter if its a terrible thing to go through or even if its no big deal…i just need a heads up!!

5 replies

judiandsimba 2011-12-23 09:49:38 -0600 Report

Hi hon, I just had this done on my left leg just recently. Don't worry about, what some people are referring to as pain, it really is only like a bee sting. I didn't seem to have anymore discomfort than that. I had a wonderful doctor do the test and because I have an outgoing personality we chatted the whole time with quite a few laughs thrown in so it kept me distracted. One thing you might notice is that the room will be quite warm because it is needed for the test. Good luck. You will do fine. Merry Christmas

red flower lady
red flower lady 2011-12-22 20:32:21 -0600 Report

Hi Mona, I had this done a couple of years back and I had two appts as well. The first was to go over why I was there and y meds and history and to set up the next appt. When I had the test done I didn't feel pain, but I could see where all the needle marks where and it just fellt like very small little pinches done with a very light touch. I also have a high tolerence for pain. The test will tell how your muscles react to stimuli. My dr showed me the screen and explained the results. I have nerve damage in not oneleg, but both:( They were trying to see which is diabetes related and which is due to an injured back.

Don't be affraid, you'll most likely put a gown on and freeze while the test is being done. My husband was there with me and he asked all kinds of questions so I'm sure that helped keep me distracted.

jayabee52 2011-08-07 02:59:53 -0500 Report

Yes, Mona, I've had both the EMG and the nerve conduction study. Here's an article from EMedicinhealth on it: http://www.emedicinehealth.com/electromyograp...

the article will tell you what happens in those tests.

Mine was done in a neurlogist's (Nerve Dr) office to which I had been referred. We were trying to find the causes of my problems walking and balance when standing.

And while there was some little discomfort with both proceedures I can't say they werereally painful (but I have a high tolerence threshhold for pain, so it may be painful for others).

your dr performing the tests should have your meds list already, and should have informed you if you need to stop taking something. Call the office and ask them to access your meds list, and doublecheck if there is something you need to discontinue for a while before the tests.

I pray they find what they are looking for, and that they can do something which can help you.


AuntieM234 2011-08-07 02:36:32 -0500 Report

Hey friend Mona: I've had two or three EMGs and yes, there is pain involved. When I was about to have it done, the person conducting the test (a neurologist, I believe) told me it was going to hurt. He said he knew, because he had one done on himself so he would be able to tell his patients what to expect. I did a search and came up with detailed information from WebMD.com. It is rather lengthy, but I thought it best not to edit anything out. If you have any other questions about the pain aspects after you read the information, feel free to post a reply. I've also provided the link to the site at the end of this post reply, ;-) Mara

Electromyogram (EMG) and Nerve Conduction Studies
An electromyogram (EMG) measures the electrical activity of muscles at rest and during contraction. Nerve conduction studies measure how well and how fast the nerves can send electrical signals.

Nerves control the muscles in the body with electrical signals called impulses. These impulses make the muscles react in specific ways. Nerve and muscle problems cause the muscles to react in abnormal ways.

If you have leg pain or numbness, you may have these tests to find out how much your nerves are being affected. These tests check how well your spinal cord, nerve roots, and nerves and muscles that control your legs are working.

Why It Is Done
An EMG is done to:

Find diseases that damage muscle tissue, nerves, or the junctions between nerve and muscle. These problems may include a herniated disc, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or myasthenia gravis (MG).
Find the cause of weakness, paralysis, or muscle twitching. Problems in a muscle, the nerves supplying a muscle, the spinal cord, or the area of the brain that controls a muscle can cause these symptoms. The EMG does not show brain or spinal cord diseases.
A nerve conduction study is done to:

Find damage to the peripheral nervous system, which includes all the nerves that lead away from the brain and spinal cord and the smaller nerves that branch out from those nerves. This test is often used to help find nerve problems such as carpal tunnel syndrome or Guillain-Barré syndrome.
How To Prepare
Tell your doctor if you:

Are taking any medicines. Certain medicines that affect the nervous system can change electromyogram (EMG) results. You may need to stop taking these medicines 3 to 6 days before the test.
Have had bleeding problems or take blood thinners, such as warfarin or heparin. If you take blood thinners, your doctor will tell you when to stop taking them before the test.
Have a pacemaker.
Do not smoke for 3 hours before the test.

Do not eat or drink foods that contain caffeine (such as coffee, tea, cola, and chocolate) for 2 to 3 hours before the test.

Wear loose-fitting clothing so your muscles and nerves can be tested. You may be given a hospital gown to wear.

For an EMG, you may be asked to sign a consent form. Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have regarding the need for the test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results will mean.

To help you understand the importance of this test, fill out the medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).

How It Is Done
An EMG is done in a hospital, clinic, or doctor's office. It may be done in a room that stops any outside electrical interference. The test may be done by an EMG technologist or a doctor.

You will be asked to lie on a table or bed or sit in a reclining chair so your muscles are relaxed.

The skin over the areas to be tested is cleaned. A needle electrode that is attached by wires to a recording machine is inserted into a muscle.

When the electrodes are in place, the electrical activity in that muscle is recorded while the muscle is at rest. Then the technologist or doctor asks you to tighten (contract) the muscle slowly and steadily. This electrical activity is recorded.

The electrode may be moved a number of times to record the activity in different areas of the muscle or in different muscles.

The electrical activity in the muscle is shown as wavy and spiky lines on a video monitor and may also be heard on a loudspeaker as machine gun-like popping sounds when you contract the muscle. The activity may also be recorded on video.

An EMG may take 30 to 60 minutes. When the test is done, the electrodes are removed and those areas of the skin where a needle was inserted are cleaned. You may be given pain medicine if any of the test areas are sore.

Nerve conduction studies
In this test, several flat metal disc electrodes are attached to your skin with tape or a paste. A shock-emitting electrode is placed directly over the nerve, and a recording electrode is placed over the muscles controlled by that nerve. Several quick electrical pulses are given to the nerve, and the time it takes for the muscle to contract in response to the electrical pulse is recorded. The speed of the response is called the conduction velocity.

The same nerves on the other side of the body may be studied for comparison. When the test is done, the electrodes are removed.

Nerve conduction studies are done before an EMG if both tests are being done. Nerve conduction tests may take from 15 minutes to 1 hour or more, depending on how many nerves and muscles are studied.

How It Feels
During an EMG test, you may feel a quick, sharp pain when the needle electrode is put into a muscle. After the test, you may be sore and have a tingling feeling in your muscles for 1 to 2 hours. If your pain gets worse or you have swelling, tenderness, or pus at any of the needle sites, call your doctor.

With the nerve conduction studies, you may feel a quick, burning pain, a tingling feeling, and a twitching of the muscle each time the electrical pulse is given. It feels like the kind of tingling you feel when you rub your feet on the carpet and then touch a metal object. The tests make some people anxious. Keep in mind that only a very low-voltage electrical current is used, and each electrical pulse is very quick (less than a split-second).

An EMG is very safe. You may get some small bruises or swelling at some of the needle sites. The needles are sterile, so there is very little chance of getting an infection.

There is no chance of problems with nerve conduction studies. Nothing is put into your skin, so there is no chance of infection. The voltage of electrical pulses is not high enough to cause an injury.

Your doctor may be able to tell you about some of the results of your nerve studies right after the tests. A full report may take 2 to 3 days.

Electromyogram (EMG) and nerve conduction studies Normal:
The EMG recording shows no electrical activity when the muscle is at rest. There is a smooth, wavy line on the recording with each muscle contraction.

The nerve conduction studies show that the nerves send electrical impulses to the muscles or along the sensory nerves at normal speeds, or conduction velocities. Sensory nerves allow the brain to feel pain, touch, temperature, and vibration. Different nerves have different normal conduction velocities. Nerve conduction velocities generally get slower as a person gets older.

Electrical activity in a muscle at rest shows that there may be a problem with the nerve supply to the muscle. Abnormal wave lines when a muscle contracts may mean a muscle or nerve problem, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), post-polio syndrome, inflammation, or other muscle problems.

In nerve conduction studies, the speed of nerve impulses is slower than what is normal for that nerve. Slower speeds may be caused by injury to a nerve or group of nerves. Nerve conduction velocities generally get slower as a person gets older.

The results from EMG and nerve conduction studies are used along with your medical history, symptoms, physical and neurological exams, and the results of other tests to help your doctor find out what the problem is or see how a disease is changing.

What Affects the Test
Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:

Taking medicines, such as muscle relaxants and anticholinergics.
Having bleeding, swelling, or too much fat under the skin at the site of the nerves or muscles being tested.
Not being able to do what is asked during the test.

What To Think About
The levels of some enzymes in the blood, such as aspartate aminotransferase (AST), lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), and creatine phosphokinase (CPK), may rise when muscle tissue is damaged. An electromyogram can cause higher levels of these enzymes for up to 10 days after the EMG, so blood tests for these enzymes should not be done for 5 to 10 days after an EMG.
Special types of electromyograms (EMG) may also be done. For example:
Single-fiber EMG is a special type of EMG test. For this test, very small needles are inserted into a muscle to see how a single muscle fiber contracts. It is a useful test for myasthenia gravis, a disease that affects the nerve-muscle (neuromuscular) junctions.
Repetitive nerve stimulation is a useful test for myasthenia gravis and Lambert-Eaton syndrome. In this test, small, repeated shocks are given to measure how the muscle reacts to repeated nerve stimulation.
External sphincter electromyogram measures the electrical activity of the external urinary sphincter to help find urination problems. The urinary sphincter is a ring-shaped band of muscles around the urethra that helps control urination. The electrical activity can be measured by skin electrodes, by needle electrodes inserted through the skin, or by electrodes in an anal plug.

======================= Mona: Just another note from me. IMO they downplay the pain aspect here. I believe the writer probably hasn't experienced an EMG. Again, let me know if you want to talk further. ;-) Mara

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