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Electromyography and Nerve Conduction Studies (EMG/NCS)

What is an EMG study?

An “EMG” study refers to electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction studies (NCS).  EMG/NCS are diagnostic techniques that allow us to examine your nerves and muscles for abnormal function.  It is often thought that an EMG/NCS is an extension of the physician’s physical exam providing exquisite detail of your nerve health.  It compliments MRI or ultrasound studies which only provide a picture of the structures, not how well they are functioning.

What conditions can be diagnosed with EMG/NCS studies?

Most abnormalities that affect nerves and muscles can be diagnosed with EMG/NCS.  Most of these conditions are often associated with pain-related symptoms.  Examples include peripheral neuropathies, radiculopathy, carpal tunnel syndrome, cubital tunnel syndrome, tarsal tunnel syndrome, meralgiaparesthetica, cheiralgiaparesthetica, and myopathies.

How do EMG/NCS work?

Nerves and muscles rely on electrical signals to function properly.  When there is a disease process or dysfunction of these structures, their electrical function is often abnormal. EMG/NCS studies enable us to measure these electrical signals to determine whether there is an actual abnormality by providing information on signal strength, signal speed, and muscle activation patterns.

Are EMG/NCS studies painful?

Almost all patients can tolerate an EMG/NCS study thanks to modern advancements in technique and testing equipment.  The EMG part of the test utilizes a very thin, Teflon-coated needle electrode that is the size of an acupuncture needle. It is inserted into key muscles in the body along the path of the nerve.  Some may feel a slight pinch, while others will barely feel the needle. Possible side effects may include, but are not limited to:  bruising, temporary muscles aches. A NCS study utilizes a nerve stimulator that provides small levels of electrical stimulation, with electrode stickers placed on the skin to detect the signals.  Many patients will often smile when they experience this sensation for the first time, comparing it to the sensation of hitting their “funny bone”.

How do I prepare for an EMG/NCS?

Most importantly, on the day of the EMG/NCS study, please do not apply body lotions, salves or oils to the skin, as these can affect the electrical signals we are trying to measure. On rare occasions, we reschedule the examination if we do not feel the test will be accurate.

If you have any questions about EMG/NCS studies please do not hesitate to ask us.

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Dr. Panagos took extreme care for my condition on many occasions. He was also instrumental in enabling me too make a trip to France for our Daughters birthday. I was in excruciating back pain and he gave me the formula to be able to sustain myself for a week during that time. He did all of this OUTSIDE of his office time, from his home during the evening. That is my kind of a caring Doctor. 

Oscar Y
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