What Can EMG Tests Diagnose?

By: Editorial Team May 3, 2021 3:30 am
: 10 Minutes to Read

What Can EMG Tests Diagnose?

When patients face consistent pain, tingling, or weakness, the root cause can be any of several medical complications ranging from external injuries to genetically transmitted diseases. Doctors employ a variety of tests and diagnoses to discard incorrect diagnoses until the doctors confirm the true root cause of the patient’s symptoms. Electromyography (EMG) tests are one of the diagnostic procedures that doctors employ to determine whether the cause of the patient’s symptoms originate from the affected body parts or from another affected part of the body. And Elite Atlanta Centers uses EMG tests as one of its multiple diagnostic procedures to isolate the root cause of patients’ muscular and neurological difficulties.

How an EMG Test Works

An EMG test is a two-phase procedure:

  • Nerve Conduction Study (NCS): The NCS involves electrodes placed on the patient’s skin above nerves. The electrodes emit a small electrical shock to stimulate the nerve. The test measures the speed at which the electrical impulse travels through the nerve. The speed is compared to typical speeds for the patient’s demographics; when the recorded speed falls below typical speeds, the nerve may be damaged.
  • EMG Needle Exam: The EMG needle exam involves fine needles inserted into the patient’s muscles. The needles record the electrical impulses that travel through the muscles when they are flexed and when they are resting. The doctor analyzes the recorded data to determine if muscle damage or nerve damage are possible for the patient.

Doctors may recommend EMG tests for patients who experience numbness, tingling, muscle pains, muscle cramps, muscle weakness, and specific types of limb pain. The two most common types of anomalies detected by EMG tests are electrical activity in relaxed muscles and unusual electrical activity during muscle contractions. EMG tests alone can rarely pinpoint the true root cause, though the nature and severity of the electrical anomalies – or the absence of electrical anomalies – can eliminate conditions that have similar symptoms. A common example is when a damaged nerve along the spine causes intense pain or weakness in another body part; EMG tests on the “affected” body part will reveal that the root cause is in another part of the body.

Testing for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The symptoms associated with carpal tunnel syndrome are also linked to other medical conditions that trigger peripheral polyneuropathy, such as diabetes. An EMG needle exam measures whether the muscles and nerves in the patient’s arms and wrists are functioning normally. If the EMG needle exam results in no anomalies, the cause of the patient’s pain is likely another medical condition causing peripheral polyneuropathy. Conversely, when the EMG needle exam reports discrepancies in how the electrical currents course though the patient’s arm, the likelihood that the patient has carpal tunnel syndrome is much higher.

Testing for Concussion-Related Brain Injuries

A concussion can cause long-lasting damage to the brain, especially when the damage is not immediately identified. Detecting such damage can be difficult since symptoms can be erratic or slow to emerge; a concussion victim can be asymptomatic for weeks before signs of the brain injury become visible. CT scans performed after a concussion can return false positives, leaving traumatic brain injuries undetected and untreated. This can amplify the severity of the injury once symptoms manifest. An EMG test can reveal erratic electrical activity which can reveal the presence of brain trauma, allowing the medical staff to treat the trauma immediately.

Testing for Herniated Discs

Herniated discs can cause intense pain in the lower legs when they pinch the sciatic nerves. Typically, doctors use MRIs to diagnose herniated discs. However, EMG tests on the affected legs can further confirm that the cause of the pain is a pinched nerve on the spine instead of a disorder originating from the leg. This can be useful when the herniated disc is in a mild or moderate state; detecting the possibility of a herniated disc can lead to treatment before the onset of severe pain.

Elite Atlanta Centers performs comprehensive studies and treatments of chronic pain for patients in or near Atlanta. NCV tests and EMG needle tests are some of the diagnostic techniques that we employ to determine the cause of our patients’ pain. The information that we collect from diagnostic tests allow us to create individualized care plans that will allow patients to manage their pain and restore their quality of life. Restorative measures include medication, physical therapy, and massage therapy. Please feel free to contact us by filling out our online form or by calling us at (678) 606-9833.

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