Electromyography

Definition

Electromyography (EMG) measures and records the electrical activity of a muscle. The test can record a muscle's electrical activity at rest or during a muscle contraction.

An EMG is often done with nerve conduction studies . These studies can analyze the electrical activity in your nerves.

EMG of the Shoulder
EMG shoulder 2
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Reasons for Test

EMG is most often done to:

  • Aid in diagnosing the source of pain, cramping, or weakness
  • Differentiate between true muscle weakness and limitations due to pain
  • Determine if muscles and nerves are working properly
  • Distinguish between muscle and nerve disorders

Possible Complications

Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:

  • Bleeding
  • Pain or bruising at the needle insertion site
  • Infection at the needs insertion site

What to Expect

Prior to Test

Make sure you talk to your doctor about the medications you are taking. You may be asked to adjust certain medications up to a week before the test, such as:

  • Aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Blood thinners
  • Anti-platelets

On the day before and day of the test:

  • If you have myasthenia gravis , ask if you should take any medication before the test.
  • If directed to, avoid cigarettes, coffee, tea, and soft drinks for 2-3 hours before the test.
  • Take a bath or shower before the test.
  • On the day before, do not use lotion or oil.
  • Wear comfortable clothing. You will have to change into a hospital gown.
  • Tell your doctor if you have a pacemaker or other implanted device.

Description of the Test

A small needle electrode will be inserted into a muscle at rest. You will be asked to rest or contract the muscle. The electrical activity picked up by the needle will produce a waveform. The waveform will be recorded and analyzed. The test is repeated on different muscles and limbs.

After Test

You will be able to leave once the test is done. Once you are home:

  • Resume any medications you stopped before the test
  • Resume normal activities as tolerated

How Long Will It Take?

30-90 minutes

Will It Hurt?

You may have some pain when the needle electrodes are inserted. The insertion feels like an injection into the muscle.

After the test, you may have muscle aches and discomfort for several days. Warm compresses and pain medication may help.

Results

The doctor doing the EMG may discuss the results with you. A report will also be sent to your regular doctor. Your doctor will discuss treatment options based on the tests and other factors.

Call Your Doctor

After the test, call your doctor if any of the following occur:

  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge around the needle sites

Revisions

All EBSCO Publishing proprietary, consumer health and medical information found on this site is accredited by URAC. URAC's Health Web Site Accreditation Program requires compliance with 53 rigorous standards of quality and accountability, verified by independent audits. To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at HLEditorialTeam@ebscohost.com.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Editorial Policy | Privacy Policy | Terms and Conditions | Support
Copyright © 2008 EBSCO Publishing. All rights reserved.

There is no sure way to prevent breast cancer. But you may help lower your risk by maintaining a healthy body weight, limiting how much alcohol you drink and getting regular exercise.