Is Electromyography (EMG) Painful?

Electromyography (EMG) is a test that measures and graphs the electrical activity in your muscles as they move. Muscles contract when nerve cells (called motor neurons) send a small electrical impulse into them. An EMG measures these impulses through a needle, which acts as an electrode, injected into the muscle tissue. The doctor can then look for abnormalities, such as pinched nerves, nerve damage, herniated discs, ALS and other conditions.

“Is it painful?”

This is one of the most common questions that patients ask when they’re preparing to undergo an electromyography. In a word, yes, you can expect some discomfort. However, it is not a procedure to be dreaded. If you’re facing this procedure, let’s remove some of the apprehension by explaining what happens.

Discomfort during the procedure

While there is little or no sensation involved with the detecting of electrical activity, the insertion of the needle itself into the muscle may cause discomfort — but generally not more so than if you were receiving a shot or giving blood. The neurologist only performs one insertion at a time, and you receive advance warning and guidance for minimizing the discomfort while it’s happening. Depending on the muscle and extent of testing, the neurologist may need to perform several insertions over a period of time.

Managing the discomfort

During the procedure, it’s important to communicate with the doctor if the pain becomes more intense or feels overwhelming. He/she may give you instructions to relax or contract certain muscles, not only to measure the electrical activity, but also to help minimize the pain. If you need to take a break, just ask.

Discomfort after the procedure

After the EMG is complete, you may experience some muscle soreness at the insertion point(s). This is normal and generally lasts 1-2 days. While electromyography can be uncomfortable, the data received from the test can be very useful to the doctor in helping you find a long-term solution to the pain or condition that predicated the test.

For more information on Electromyography (EMG) and how they are performed, call Polaris Spine & Neurosurgery Center today at (404) 256-2633.

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