Electromyography (EMG) study is a wonderful diagnostic tool, frequently used by the well-respected spine specialists at Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine. EMG studies are used to assess the health of muscles and the nerve cells that control them. They help us evaluate nerve and muscle function and irregularities in the transmission of electrical signals between the two body systems. If you are dealing with neuromuscular problems, coming to one of our convenient offices in Nassau, Suffolk, and Queens Counties for a full evaluation is a wise move.

What EMG Studies Measure

Nerve cells (neurons) transmit signals that cause muscles to contract. Electrodes on the patient translate these signals into sounds, graphs, and numerical values that are decipherable by our highly trained doctors. Once we carefully evaluate the information retrieved, we have a much clearer understanding of whether there is a disconnect in the communication process between muscles and nerves.

Importantly, EMG studies compare electrical signals at rest and during usage. The nerve conduction study, which is done along with the EMG, measures the speed and accuracy of the transmission of electrical signals.

What happens during an EMG and nerve conduction study?

These studies involve two separate processes. The first part is the nerve conduction study (NCS), during which surface electrodes are applied to the skin, measuring the speed and strength of electrical signals as they travel. The next part, a needle EMG, involves inserting a needle electrode directly into the targeted muscle to record its electrical activity. 

One thing the doctor will be looking for is whether there is any abnormal electrical activity while your muscle is at rest. Another is the level of activity when the muscle is contracted. Depending on which muscles and nerves are being examined, the doctor will provide you with instructions regarding when you should contract or release a muscle and whether you should change positions.

Symptoms that May Bring You to Long Island Spine

If you report an occasional muscle spasm, your primary care physician is unlikely to be concerned, but if you experience any of the following symptoms frequently or severely, you are likely to be referred for further investigation of what might be causing them:

  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Muscle weakness or fatigue
  • Muscle pain or cramping
  • Pain in your limbs

After giving you a physical examination, one of our doctors may order EMG studies to diagnose or rule out a common or more serious disorder, either of which may require treatment to lessen pain, increase mobility, or prevent worsening of your condition.

Conditions EMG Studies Can Help To Diagnose

Though your symptoms may not be major at the time of your initial visit, it is a good idea to have them analyzed by one of our spine and musculoskeletal specialists early so your health does not deteriorate. It is also often helpful to have baseline EMG results as a means of comparison if your symptoms worsen.

By administering EMG studies, we may be able to pinpoint or rule out:

  • Sciatica
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Peripheral neuropathy 
  • Bell’s palsy
  • Herniated spinal disc or other back problems
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Muscular dystrophy 
  • Myasthenia gravis

Are EMG studies painful?

As with other medical procedures, individual patients report varying levels of sensation. You will probably feel a small twinge or spasm when the electrodes activate and some discomfort during the period that the needle electrode is inserted. These discomforts usually pass quickly. If you’re concerned, you should discuss the process with one of our highly-skilled, knowledgeable doctors.

Are there any risks associated with having an EMG study?

EMG studies are very low-risk procedures; complications are extremely rare. As with any insertion of a needle, there is a minimal risk of bleeding, infection, or nerve injury, but the professionals at Long Island Spine always approach any procedure with great caution so you have nothing to worry about.

Do I have to prepare for my EMG study?

At Long Island Spine, our physiatrists (doctors who specialize in pain management and rehabilitation) always discuss any upcoming procedure with the patient. This is the time when the doctor will ask you about any pre-existing conditions you have, any medications you take, and whether you have any implanted devices, like a pacemaker. This is also the time for you to ask any questions, or express any concerns, about the procedure.

We recommend that you don’t apply any lotions or creams to your skin on the day of your exam since they may interfere with the results. Also, you should remove any jewelry and turn off any electronic devices during the test.

What happens after my EMG study?

Immediately after the EMG study, you may experience a bit of soreness or minor bruising where the needle was inserted. This is normal and ordinarily short-lived. Most people can resume their normal activities as soon as they leave our offices unless, as some patients prefer, they have been mildly sedated. The doctor who has administered the EMG study will take some time to interpret the results of your exam and provide you with the results on your follow-up visit.

Contact Long Island Spine Today So We Can Diagnose and Treat Your Problem

Procrastinating when it comes to neuromuscular symptoms is misguided. If you have a condition that requires treatment, the sooner we begin, the sooner you will feel better. And, if the problem we find is minor and needs little intervention, think of the peace of mind the results of your EMG will bring.