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Nerve Conduction Study and Electromyography

If you are experiencing unusual symptoms, such as tingling or muscle weakness, a nerve conduction study and electromyography (EMG) test can offer answers. The test evaluates the health of your muscles and the nerves that control your muscles.

Nerve conduction study and EMG can help determine if your symptoms are due to a nerve injury or a neuromuscular disorder, including the following:

Do you need a nerve conduction study and EMG?

While your doctor can easily identify some neuromuscular problems through a physical exam or blood test, more complex symptoms can be harder to diagnose. That’s when a nerve conduction study and EMG can help.

Your doctor at Rush will order a nerve conduction study and EMG if you are experiencing some of these symptoms of nerve or muscle disorders:

  • Muscle pain and/or weakness
  • Numbness
  • Tingling

Having these symptoms does not necessarily mean you have a nerve or muscle disorder. But the quicker you find out the cause of your symptoms, the sooner you can start treatment to get relief.

What does a nerve conduction study and EMG do?

All muscles naturally produce electricity. A nerve conduction study and EMG measures the electrical activity generated by your nerves and muscles, respectively, to determine if it is normal or not.

You will typically have the nerve conduction study and EMG in the same setting — and EMG generally follows the nerve conduction study. The test usually takes about one hour total, but it may be shorter or longer depending on your condition.

Abnormal electrical activity indicates that you may have muscle or nerve damage.

Nerve conduction test: step-by-step

To perform this test, your doctor will do the following:

  1. Tape flat electrodes on your skin over nerves that your doctor suspects are causing your symptoms.
  2. Stimulate the nerve and obtain a nerve response displayed on a computer screen.
  3. Analyze the information and compare it to normal data to determine the health of your nerve.

EMG: step-by-step

To perform the test, your doctor will do the following:

  1. Insert a very thin needle electrode into certain muscles, one at a time, to help determine the cause of your symptoms.
  2. Ask you to move your muscle (e.g., bending your arm or leg). This allows your doctor to view the muscle’s activity on a computer screen both at rest and during movement.

Does it hurt?

Generally, the test is well tolerated, and your care team at Rush makes all efforts to minimize any discomfort.

  • The nerve conduction study feels like a sensation of static electricity. You may feel your muscles twitch.
  • During the EMG portion of the test, you may feel some pain or discomfort when the doctor inserts the needle into the muscle. Similar to bruising that can occur after a blood test, there may be soreness or bruising in the muscle for one or two days after the test.

Your results

  • If your results are normal: Your doctor will discuss additional testing or treatment options that can help diagnose the problem and alleviate your symptoms.
  • If your results are abnormal: A neuromuscular specialist at Rush is available to thoroughly explain your results and treatment options, while also educating you about your condition.

Why choose Rush for electromyography

  • Specialists in the neuromuscular disease program at Rush are skilled at identifying — and treating — difficult-to-diagnose diseases, even in their earliest stages.
  • The electromyography (EMG) lab at Rush has the most sophisticated diagnostic technology available for detecting muscle and nerve disorders.
  • The neurology and neurosurgery program at Rush is consistently ranked among the best in the country in U.S. News & World Report.