for Patients

What is an EMG?

Why am I being sent for an EMG?

You are being sent to the EMG lab because you have numbness, tingling, pain, weakness, or muscle cramping. We will be using nerve conduction studies and needle EMG to help diagnose your symptoms.

What is an EMG?

Art EMG is the study of diseases to nerves and muscles. The testing consists of 2 parts — nerve conduction studies and needle electromyography. Both nerve conduction studies and EMG’s can help physicians determine the causes of patients back or neck problems.

The Nerve Conduction Studies

These show how well the body’s electrical signals are traveling to a nerve. This is done by applying small electrical shocks to the nerve and recording how the nerve works. These shocks cause a quick, mild, tingling feeling. Several nerves will be tested.


For this part of the test, a small thin pin is put in several muscles to see if there are any problems. A new pin is used for each patient and it is disposed of after the test is completed. There may be a small amount of pain when the pin is inserted. Only the necessary muscles will be tested. I will be listening to and observing electrical signals that travel from the needle to the EMG machine.

How should I prepare for the tests?

Do not use body lotion on the day of the test. Tell your doctor if you are taking aspirin, blood thinners (like Coumadin), have a pacemaker, or have hemophilia. Take a bath or shower to remove oil from your skin. You may eat normal meals and continue taking prescribed medications unless your doctor gives other instructions.

Does it hurt?

Some people tolerate it just fine and have no problems. Most people describe it as uncomfortable and annoying. During the first part, the nerve conductions, you will feel a shock like feeling that starts out small and get stronger. It is annoying and feels like scuffing your feet on the carpet and touching a doorknob. During the second part, the needle EMG, you may experience some pain when the needle is inserted into each of the muscles being tested. I will be testing 5-7 muscles and so some discomfort should be expected. The EMG is not acupuncture or a skin treatment of any kind. Nothing is injected into or under the skin.

How long will these tests take?

The test usually takes 45-80 minutes. You can perform all of your normal activities, like eating, driving and exercising before the tests. There are no lasting side effects. You can also perform all of your normal activities after the testing is complete.