Pain is often a sign that something is wrong in the body. Some types of pain come from an easily recognizable source, but other pain is more stubborn, with causes that are difficult to pinpoint. Doctors have a variety of tools at their disposal to diagnose and treat different types of chronic pain. One of these tools is electromyography, also known as an EMG. These facts can help you learn more about EMG and how it is used to diagnose musculoskeletal conditions:
1. A nerve conduction study measures how well your nerves conduct electrical signals
EMGs are typically performed in two steps. The first step is a nerve conduction study that measures how well your nerves conduct electrical signals. Electrodes are placed on the skin at the beginning of this study, and a machine is then used to stimulate various points of the body using electricity. Signals that are slower than average can indicate areas of nerve impingement that may point to common conditions, such as carpal tunnel syndrome and cubital tunnel syndrome.
2. An EMG can test the function of your muscles
Muscles move when signals from the brain create nerve impulses in the muscle tissue. These impulses can be measured when a muscle is contracted. During the second portion of your EMG, your doctor will insert needles into the muscles to be tested. You'll be asked to move your muscles, and the signals from your muscles will be transmitted through the needles and recorded using a machine. This test can help your doctor find out if your pain is due to abnormal electrical signals in your muscles, which can be caused by inflammation and muscular dystrophy.
3. EMGs are typically well-tolerated and do not require any downtime
EMGs are useful diagnostic tests because they are non-invasive. Some patients are nervous before their EMG because they're worried that the tests will hurt. However, most people do not experience significant pain during these tests. Patients may feel some discomfort as needles are inserted into their muscles for the EMG, but this discomfort is usually minor and transient. Likewise, people may feel a jolt during their nerve conduction test, but few people experience the sensation as painful. Once your test has concluded, you can go about your day as usual without making any modifications to your normal routine.
Learning more about the source of your pain is an important step in treating it. EMG tests can help your care team make the correct diagnosis so you can get the support you need to resolve your musculoskeletal issues.